By Sharon Harris. Sharon writes from London, UK. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Listening is the unselfish act of giving, without the need or the desire for anything in return. It is the non-physical manifestation of whole presence in a situation or conversation. Which, in this era of immediate self-gratification, can be a hard thing to attain.

The intent to reply is the ego’s hand in the air from the little kid at the back of the classroom, whom no one really listens to, but continues to show themselves off, until they get picked. Or the ill mannered bully who barges into a room, without knocking and demands to be seen.

According to, listening means to give attention with the ear, or to wait attentively for a sound. Hearing means to perceive by ear. Often, one doesn’t recognize or fully understand the difference between hearing and listening and subsequently one has no idea how to show up to a conversation.

When one accepts, tunes in, attends or even admits, one is listening; effectively engaging as an active motion. So when “one is listening with the intent to reply”, essentially, there is a lack of engagement. One is merely hearing or catching what is said, detecting sound. Often, when that’s the case, there tends to be a series of conversational interruptions, off-topics and directions of frustration ensue.

Conversations are a hub for learning. If one is constantly saying “sorry to interrupt you” – but proceeds to interrupt anyway, there is no sorry and it’s clearly obvious that learning is not their desire. Getting their point across is. Merely hearing for their moment to jump in to the conversation. Like one waiting to jump into ‘double dutch’, disrupting the flow for their own 5 minutes of fame.

When listening with the intent to reply, one does not absorb the fullness of the other comment, statement or person. Recently, I have been viewing relationships between men and women from the eyes of a student. I have married friends who are moving to the arena of no longer being married and I question why that is the case. I often ask strangers alike, whose relationship is perceived to be working, how, and for those that are not working, I ask why. They both boil down to communication. The effectiveness of communication. Communicating from different waves lengths, being on different pages, how one listens to the other, what he/she says and how or if it makes sense. If we look at Stephen Covey’s statement in the context of relationships, intimate or otherwise (I believe all encounters are relationships for a reason, season or a lifetime, if one is fortunate enough), foundationally that must be why some work and some don’t, because of how one shows up to a conversation and what one’s contribution is. Is it to learn? Actively listening with the intention to understand. Or is it merely to reply to what’s being said and get on with your next task?

How one communicates also lends itself to how one may engage in conversation. Styles vary with the complexity of humanity; experience, accent, intonation, physical animation, time of day even the time of year can all have a role in how one communicates with another and how the receiver will engage with the deliverer. In addition to pre-marital counselling both parties would surely benefit from activities centred around active/present communication. The same lends itself to the workplace. As someone who has both line managed and has been managed, clarity of communication – the giving; exchanging of ideas and or information; in order to receive the required outcome, be it an act or receipt of information, is key.

I agree with Stephen Covey, because I know and often do the same thing myself lol. Much to the irritation of others. I’m genuinely not coming from a “my-opinion-is-better-than-yours-so-hear-me-now” space. It’s just that my memory is bad and I’m uber passionate so it’s now or never for me. As a conversation lover, it is inconsiderate to think that interrupting is ok. Even if you yourself are engaged in the discussion, of course it comes across like you’re not listening, you just want to talk, and a conversation isn’t healthy if there’s just one person in attendance.

8 comments on “Listen/Hear

  1. Emma John-Lewis on

    I hate when people constantly interrupt in a conversation and don’t allow others to finish. I feel like that happens a lot at work, because others feel their word is more important than others.

  2. Angie Leonie on

    Guilty, Guilty, Guilty of interruption and constantly wanting to jump in to finish the point and get to the next segment. Funny enough people comment on my discipline of patience and listening ear, but I know its because I’m having a SERIOUSLY intense battle not to overwhelm them with my foolishness. Communication the foundation that constantly needs to be checked again and again.

  3. Lee Reece on

    My Profession Entails Me To Listen; And I Do A Lot Of It In My Personally Life Too. I’ve Been Told I Am Good At It, But At Times I Think ” Who Is Listening Too Me? Am I Even Being Heard?” Guilty Of The “Let Me Finish…” Quote, But That Only Makes An Appearance At Work.

  4. Judith Anthony on

    I, like many people, am guilty of listening for the opportunity to make my point: however, having been an oral history intervieer, I have also developed the skills active listening, I realise the vast difference between the two. Good practice (and probably manners) in my opinion, lie between the two.

  5. Nicole on

    Funny enough I am a rather passionate conversationalist, I am the animated fully immersed, stare you straight in the eye kinda of person. I don’t want to miss a thing! I get excited and intrigued to learn new things, explore different aspects of a situation, and basically have a good debate. I have been told that I interrupt sometimes, (which I get irritated at myself for) I am generally asking another question to find out more before the person has finished their answer/description but I will add that this is during social interaction. In my professional life I have to be more controlled, focussed and actively listen. In most cases I have to reiterate what I am told. So I capable of doing it. LOL

  6. Segz on

    “Slow to speak quick to listen” comes to mind from the book of Proverbs. Good communication is a needed for us who feel not heard. It is not about the quantative but about the qualative. A 2 hour conversation should not end with either party feeling “they didn’t understand what I was trying to say”.

    In marriage they talk about the 3 golden rules; sex, money and communication. I believe that communication is the cord that binds them together.

    Let’s truly hear one other and have the courage to speak.


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