My daughter is profoundly deaf. She has a cochlear implant and with her equipment turned on she can hear sounds as quiet as 20dB - a kitten's meow, the sound of a brush going through her hair, or a tweeting bird high in a tree. With her equipment turned off, she hears nothing.
We have spent countless hours working on her hearing and speech and the one thing I have learned, that stands out more than anything, is the distinct difference between hearing and listening. I see it clearly every day with my deaf daughter, but I also see it in many of the hearing people in my life. I'm sure everyone does.
There are people in our lives that never care to listen (or hear) - they seem very comfortable only talking and seem to take much joy in whatever they are saying. They obviously do not feel the need to hear what others have to say.
Then there is the complete opposite to that - a person that is kind and thoughtful, quite soft-spoken, and intensely private. During a conversation, they continually ask questions, encouraging you to talk. It appears as if they are listening and interested, but I often think they can't really be listening because they're too busy, in their own mind, thinking of how to keep you talking so they don't have to.
That brings us to the next kind of person - the one who talks alot, enjoys talking, but pauses to pretend to listen. You know they are not really listening - if you are having a face-to-face conversation, you can see the vacant look when you're talking, or how easily distracted they become with their surroundings. Or the worst is when you are on the phone, and it's your turn to talk and there is always this big ol' pregnant pause after you've said your bit - you know damn well they are not listening to you. It's unfair, because you have patiently listened to all they are saying, and when it's your turn, you deserve the same courtesy. When I sense this is happening, I always test the person by not finishing a thought, or saying something completely random - I'm always right . . . they don't pick up on the incongruity. They weren't listening. It's annoying and it's hurtful.
Or how about the "arguer"? They are so anxious to disagree with you that they choose not to listen to what you are saying. They are watching your mouth move, but not listening. You wanna bang your head against the wall when they're done talking because you had just made the exact same point they just did, but they're standing there, arguing with you. So clearly not listening!
Then there's our children. (Especially teenagers!) They nod and agree when you are trying to tell them something important, but you know they are not listening. And as a parent, you test them. "What did I just say?!" We talk slowly and loudly when we really need them to listen - we get in their face. But, we're often met with the blank stare. They can hear us! But they are not listening.
My own mom is a great listener (not to mention, always has great advice after she's listened). My best friend is a wonderful listener! I tend to talk a bit more than her, but I always feel like she's listening - no matter what I'm carrying on about. I do the same for her. That's why we're best friends. (And we do alot of talking and listening!!)
I have always had a natural salesmanship ability - my first boss told me I could sell ice to the Inuit. I was once asked what made me such a great salesperson. My response, "I listen. I listen to what is being said and I even listen to what is not being said." It's how you connect with people.
So many people we come across have such wonderful and interesting things to say. Our kids have the most amazing things to say.
Are you listening?