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Are you a listener or a hearer?

There are two main types of people in conversation: those who listen, and those who hear... well actually there are three types as there are also people who do neither. But we're going to focus on the two types who are present to the chatter.


So, what's the difference?


Let's start with the Listener. Listening is a core human skill we are all capable of and typically learn at a young age. To listen isn't to simply notice the words coming out of someone's mouth. In fact, this can be detrimental if we do this because it often means we create incorrect assumptions about others.


If we're choosing to pick which words we bank and those to ignore, it's usualy to satisfy our own insecurities or a need to be right - this especially happens during arguments which is why nothing gets resolved in the heat of the moment and instead tends to esculate further.


If we are properly listening, our body language shows this. Whether someone is having a rant or showing excitement and passion when we are listening we will have the following visible signs:


Silence: This provides a safe space for others to express how they're feeling which in return makes them feel valued and worthy and free to open up.

Eye contact: This indicates attention. When we're fully paying attention we can observe other people's body language to assess how much what they're talking about is impacting them and in what way.

Visible reaction: This could be laughing, a facial expression or empathetic cues such as a head tilt, maybe even a hug. This shows we care.


So...What about the Hearer?


This concept is something I've noted over many years of observing others in conversation both with myself and with others. A Hearer picks up on certain words, phrases, sentences or stories that attracts their focus causing them to tune out to what else is being said.


Typically a Hearer unintentionally causes frustrations in others as they can appear to have the following traits:


One-upping: When someone hears something they relate to and becomes eager to share their story, perspective, or opinion.

Interrupting: We all know what this one means and it often comes across as rude and inconsiderate. To some, it can be more frustrating to observe it happen to someone else rather than themselves.

Pause seeking: The moment there is a pause in the conversation, they're quick to change the subject or make the current topic about them.


Now firstly, I'd like to offer an alternate perspective on behalf of any Hearers out there who are thinking "yeah... I do this but I always feel guilty about it". If you're thinking this, you're very self-aware and therefore have a healthy Hearer's mentality.


There are a multitude of reasons this could be our instinct impulse during a conversation. But, the most common is that we are so absorbed in the topic that when a specific part is sorelateable we get super passionate and excited to show how much we can relate. As humans, it's in our nature to find common ground with others and in my experience thus far I'm starting to find curiosity in these different types of personalities.


Now, of course, there is the unhealthy type of Hearer who intentionally does these things and isn't participating in the conversation as a Listener. But, that's a whole other topic!

Essentially a Hearer is someone who is triggered by a part of a conversation and finds it hard to resist or impossible not to take over.


None of the above are right or wrong. We all have our own personalities. We can choose to be self-aware and identify who we are, which we want to be, and either be comfortable with where we are at or work towards changing our behaviour.


Therefore, I'd always encourage the use of positive intent. Be curious to learn more about others before assuming who they are from your own and other people's perceptions. They may even open your eyes to learning something new!

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