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Hearing and Listening are Different from One Another.

September 1, 2016

Hearing is a physical attribute that allows the brain to receive and interpret audible sound waves including speech.

Listening is giving one’s full and complete attention to the speaker so as to interpret/understand the words being spoken (or not spoken) and the underlying meaning being communicated.

Hearing and listening are different from one another.

Not hearing has been referred to as an invisible disability. I deal with this disability every day.

Nevertheless, I believe that I am a very good listener and people have told me as much; it is a part of my profession as a mediator to listen well.

I do my part in mediation to facilitate effective communication by wearing hearing aids and letting people know at the outset that I might ask someone to repeat something if I haven’t heard, correctly, or at all, what was said.

Usually, participants in the mediation are fine with this.

Some hearing situations are challenging but they can be overcome with assistance from the speaker.

Facing the listener helps.

Speaking without hands in front of the mouth is good.

Talking a little more slowly and distinctly is terrific.

Talking a little louder, but not yelling, is okay too.

Some physical environments are challenging as well.

Large meeting rooms and restaurants with lots of background noise can be very difficult. Cavernous inside spaces, like airport terminals and shopping malls, are tough too. So I avoid many such environments when possible.

And, certainly, I don’t mediate in those spaces.

Sometimes hearing on the telephone presents another challenge if the caller is using a cell phone instead of a land line or if the caller is cradling the phone under his or her chin and not speaking directly into the telephone.

But much of my professional work in mediation is face to face in a small conference room, so hearing is manageable and the opportunity to listen is uncompromised.

Or I use email from the office sometimes instead of telephoning. This is manageable too.

When people do not understand an invisible disability such as mine, sometimes it is frustrating:

The restaurant hostess the other night seemed not to understand how the environment was making dinner with my wife a difficult situation for me.  Actually, I don’t think she cared to learn either.

I do appreciate when those with whom I come into contact professionally are careful and considerate in their communications with me and help me compensate for the hearing loss.

Then I can, and do, listen, and listen well, so as to help the disputants help themselves.


David I. Karp is a full time independent mediator of real estate and business disputes in Southern California who listens carefully. His website is at .


From → Mediation

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