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Difference of Hearing and Listening

Updated: Jun 30, 2021

Reflecting on your own romantic relationship, how many times do you remember your

partner responding to your question “Did you hear me”? with “Yes, of course I heard

you”. You may respond by saying “Well then, what did I say?” Your partner may sound

like a parrot and reflect your exact words. But what does that really mean?

Today I would like to discuss the difference between hearing and listening in

relationships. The analogy that I typically use in counseling sessions when working with

couples is this: “Imagine you hear a loud sonic boom sound outside of your house” –

that’s an example of hearing; “Now you are curious where and what caused that loud

sounding boom, so you go outside to see if you could find the source” – that is listening.

When you tell your spouse that you hear him/her, you are basically saying that you

heard the sounds that were coming out of their mouth. However, if you say that you are

listening to them, that says “I not only heard the sound coming from your mouth, but I

understand what you are saying”. The desire and longing to be heard and understood

are two of the most common requests I receive from couples seeking counseling


Here are some tools that may help your partner feel heard and understood:

  1. Reflective Listening - Reflect what you “heard” your partner saying (like a parrot)using their same words

  2. Understanding – Tell your partner what makes sense of what they said using YOUR own words

  3. Check in with your partner to make sure they felt heard AND understood

Using various types of effective communication styles to help both partners feel heard

and understood, the comments received are usually, “Wow, I have not felt heard and

understood by (partner’s name) in years and it feels great!”

The issue comes when couples revert to their previous patterns and neglect using these

three simple steps. It is because our brain is structured to look for patterns, therefore it

is best to continue practicing these tools so they can be your brains “new” normal

pattern that it will be in search of. As the listening partner, it is important to push your

own agenda to the side so you can be present in what he/she is conveying. When you

feel challenged, ask our Almighty God for help as you work towards strengthening your

relationship with your partner.

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