Image for post
Image for post

Hearing ≠ Listening

Every time I go back to Australia, I comment on the prominent sound of wild birds. Once your ear has locked onto it, you can’t help but hear it everywhere you go.

When back in the US, I thought I noticed an absence of wild bird sounds, chalking it up as interesting difference between the two places.

With all the shit being flung around in modern times, I took some time out to sit in the park to enjoy the sun and being on my own. Within moments, I saw two birds fly past loudly squawking. I watched these two birds frolic on a beautiful day. For a moment, it was like nothing else mattered.

Sitting in the moment, a few things occurred to me as a good reminder and teachable moment for myself — and the world

We hear what we want to hear

We actively choose our biases — in fact, we design for that. We are always responsible for if and how we choose to listen. Insistence, intelligent debates, blame, or denial only makes us rigid, not better listeners.

It’s a game of discovery, not domination

Fixation on something doesn’t mean the opposite condition isn’t also true and present. We must force ourselves to shut up and listen. Perhaps we are all afraid of not being listened to, so we force it on each other.

Broadcasting ≠ communicating

Listening is more than stopping our mouths and fingers so others can have their turn to broadcast. It starts with a willingness to be okay with the uncertainty and challenge of what comes next. A willingness to explore and examine, rather than seek to quickly organise into a bucket of right or wrong. It’s being okay if we don’t get to share our opinion.

We choose our rules for listening

Our reticular activation system (RAS) is a huge component in how our nervous system ‘creates’ consciousness. There is significant physiological response built to support our psychology. This can trick us into thinking that our consciousness is real when it’s really just acute filtration.

Quiet doesn’t mean absent

When I listened harder for the birds, I noted that while they were quieter than the birds at home, they were still there. We all overlook so much in our march to be heard, and yet only compare ourselves to who is noisier, not who is quieter.

We fill our lives with noise as a choice

Cars, people, gossip, ‘news’, machines, devices — are massively responsible for drowning and skewing reality. We proactively fill our space with so much junk as a preference; it’s like we are afraid of listening. What are we so worried will happen if we don’t fill every waking minute with noise?

Hearing is professional; listening is personal

Listening is different from hearing, so why do we collapse the two? Everyone knows the difference between feeling listened to, versus feeling heard.

One is a transactional way to be strategic and tactical, the other is an unreserved way to learn and understand. Being heard is mechanical; feeling listened to is art.

Listening requires a willingness to be ignorant

Perhaps the hardest words for anyone to say in modern times are “I don’t understand this situation but I want to learn before having an opinion.”

The addiction to be viewed as an expert, intelligent, or informed leads us all to reply as teachers, not as students. To listen, we have to be able to publicly admit ‘I don’t understand; I don’t know; I want to learn’ especially when we have a public image of being an expert.

I think about how many people out there are stuck on a loop of psychology that keeps them stuck, frustrated, angry, annoyed, bitter, fighting. Believing that taking their eye off the perceived danger will lead to the failure of everything — despite the fact they are deeply stressed, anxious, and exhausted.

I wonder if they are aware that winning is subjective and they are merely a meaning machine making set to ‘extreme filtration mode’.

Listening isn’t a result, an act, a process, or a system — that’s hearing.

Listening is a way of being — a vulnerable immersion, and that’s why it’s so foreign. You can’t fake it.


To hear more from Pauly Ting, follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

If you liked this piece, please tap the 👏 a few times so other people can see it too.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store