Imagine that you’re talking to your coworker on the phone about a project. But while you’re providing inputs, all you get from their end is radio silence with an occasional “yeah”.

Communication always had its fair share of barriers, but now that we’ve moved to hybrid work culture, both online and in-office, there’s no end to it. It’s remarkable to see the number of messages that get filtered out because the listener is only hearing what you’re saying.

Hearing is different from listening. The former is when you don’t register the words or understand their intent or meaning. The latter is understanding the speaker’s message—it requires making an effort.

Let’s explore hearing vs listening in a professional setting and how you can overcome communication barriers.


Hearing Vs Listening


There are a number of reasons why we only hear the sounds when someone is talking to us. Oftentimes, we’re distracted or feel lazy to pay attention. Hearing doesn’t really require an effort—all you need to do is sit there and nod a few times.

In contrast, listening is something you have to do actively. You need to absorb the message for what it’s trying to convey and sometimes even ask follow-up questions.

Say you’re in a status update meeting with your manager. It’s early morning, you haven’t had your coffee; you’re feeling a bit drowsy. While you’re thinking about starting breakfast, you miss an important message from your manager.

This isn’t an uncommon situation—many of us have experienced something similar at work. To avoid such a scenario in the future, try to make a conscious effort to listen actively i.e., be present. Here’s an overview of hear vs listen:

  1. Hearing takes the least effort as it’s mostly involuntary.

Listening means you’re giving your complete attention to the speaker.


  1. Hearing means you’re distracted, focusing on things other than what’s happening in front of you.

Listening means you’re attentive, ready to ask questions if needed.


  1. Hearing may be detrimental in the workplace, making you miss out on important information.

Listening will set you apart from your coworkers as you’re making a conscious effort to participate.

How Active Listening Helps You In The Workplace


Active listening is founded on the EAR of listening. The EAR of listening comprises three qualities that you need in the workplace—Empathy, Authenticity and Respect. 

When you’re talking to someone in a professional environment, it’s important that you’re alert and focused. Otherwise, you may come off as disrespectful. Not only do you need to pay attention but also be part of the conversation. Communication is about exchanging ideas and thoughts. For effective communication, you need more than one party involved.

Understanding the concept of hearing vs listening will essentially help you overcome communication barriers in the workplace. It’ll bring you closer to your colleagues and work collaboratively on projects.

Here’s how active listening will increase your workplace impact:

  1. Bridges The Communication Gap

Whether you’re working from home or from the office, communication gaps are often inevitable. To bridge this gap, it’s important to listen actively. You won’t need to write additional emails or ask too many questions—which could be a waste of time.


  1. Builds Credibility And Reliability

As a good listener, you’re more likely to be a confidant at work. Your team members will trust you to understand where they’re coming from. They’ll be more inclined to talk to you and reach out to you if they need any help. Active listening is a great way to communicate with your coworkers and establish yourself as a professional.


  1. Makes You More Perceptive

When you’re paying attention while communicating, you learn to notice nonverbal cues like body language, facial expressions and hand gestures. Communication is not just about words being spoken, you can learn a lot from the speaker’s general behavior and actions. Being perceptive will be helpful in gauging whether your coworkers are stressed or in need of help.


  1. Helps You Empathize With Team Members

Empathy is a 21st-century skill where we need to put ourselves in others’ shoes to really understand where they’re coming from. Maybe your coworker is saying something while their facial expressions are telling a different story. Empathy will help you build rapport in the workplace.


  1. Teaches You How To Respond Appropriately

Listening to others also teaches you how you should respond, what type of questions you should ask and when you don’t need to say anything at all. Active listening is being tactful and equipping yourself with the right mindset to read a room or assess a situation.

If you can identify the difference between hear vs listen, you’ll find it easy to navigate workplace communication. Learn how to listen actively with Harappa’s Listening Actively course to empathize, understand and connect with your coworkers. Gain a deeper understanding of the concepts discussed and find ways to improve communication.

Explore topics such as Importance of Active ListeningTypes of ListeningListening BarriersHow to Improve Listening Skills & Passive Listening from Harappa Diaries and learn to empathize, understand and connect with your coworkers.

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