What is the difference between hearing and listening? Hearing is the physical act of perceiving sound. Listening is the intellectual act of perceiving meaning. For true communication to occur, we must be willing to do both.
The words “communication” and “communion” share obvious roots. To fully share with another person, to actually “hear where they’re coming from,” we need to set aside everything else. Not just the smartphone and the TV and the to-do list, but also the mental filters that we all have constructed from personal experience and unexamined assumptions.
Information that agrees with our built-in filters finds an easy path into our brains. Input that challenges what we think we know about the world — and ourselves — has a more difficult time getting through. That’s why truly listening to and understanding another person can be hard work.
It’s not hard to pass judgment on the words someone says, point out their “errors” or tell them what to do, and move on. It is much more challenging to listen intentionally to the meaning behind the words, to keep an open mind and an open heart that allows their search for their own truth to unfold. When we speak, we should acknowledge the value of their ideas and encourage further revelations.
How do we know we have really listened to another person? It can be a transformational experience. Both speaker and listener feel uplifted, inspired, connected on a deeper level — a true communion.
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