There’s a substantial difference between hearing and listening. It’s common to hear something but not listen to it. For example, I can know that my partner is talking to me because I hear her voice. But, if she asked me to tell her what she’d said I would have to admit to not knowing. That’s because I heard but didn’t listen.
Here are some typical responses to hearing someone talk:
“I hear you.”
“I know what you mean.”
“I get it.”
All of these responses are normal. They are a standard part of being social and appropriate. But they may have nothing to do with actually listening to what someone has said.
To test this out, the next time someone says to you, “I understand” ask them to tell you exactly what they understand. Maybe they will “hit the nail on the head.” Most likely, however, they will look at you quizzically and not know what to say.
Good listening is the fundamental building block of successful relationship life. Without it, going forward in even the most basic conversation quickly becomes an exercise in miscommunication.
To listen well do the following:
What I’ve described here is a special kind of listening. It’s reserved for problem-solving and the exchange of important ideas. This isn’t appropriate when small talk is called for. And, it isn’t appropriate when there’s an emergency requiring quick action.
Good listening is a sacred activity. It takes practice. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Jake Thiessen, PhD
I've been working with couples for a very long time. And, I love it! This blog is my attempt to communicate some of the things I've learned over the past 40 years.