Have you ever heard somebody say “You hear me, but you’re not listening.” This cliche actually has a lot of truth. It’s easy to hear somebody, but how do you actually listen? The difference between the two is that one is passive and the other one is active. So while all you need to do to hear somebody is be somewhat present mentally and have a functioning auditory system, listening requires more.
Think of this way: You’re at your parents house for a holiday dinner and you ask your dad how his job is, he thinks for moment, hesitates and says “okay,” but kind of turns his head down and changes the subject quickly.
Hearing him would mean you absorb that information, and take it at face value. His work is going okay! Obviously there’s nothing wrong. He’s enjoying his job and things are predictable and relaxed.
Listening to him would mean things like picking up on his non-verbals and using them to interpret his answer. Also, asking him clarifying questions and repeating back important words and phrases he mentions.
When you do this, you find out that his department lost 8 people due to layoffs. He’s not too concerned about his position, but he had to say goodbye to a handful of friends and deep down he is actually a little bit concerned about his position.
By listening, you’ve intentionally engaged your dad and understood him better. Active listening is a huge key to good communication, which as we say all the time is the driving factor behind a healthy relationship and an unhealthy one.
If you want to learn more about how you can maximize your potential through active listening, check out our free video course on active listening!
Art Janowiak III is the VP of Sales and Marketing at The Conover Company. He graduated from St. Norbert College with a passion for teaching. He has experience speaking, training and putting together online courses for emotional intelligence and career assessments. He currently lives in rural Wisconsin with his wife and five children.