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Day 8 - Hear

Level 18


Last year I explored the thought that in order to hear, you first have to stop talking. But it goes further.

Some studies now peg the average adult attention span at around 8 seconds. As much as it's temping to make an ADHD joke (Look! A Chicken!) or write this off as another sad result of the affect of screens in our lives, there's another item to consider: our desire to contribute short-circuits our ability to hear.

As my friend and mentor, Rabbi Davidovich wrote earlier this year:

"A and B are talking to each other.  "A" talks for ninety seconds.  But ten seconds in, B has heard something that triggers his desire to respond.  A's next eighty seconds are wasted.  Then B talks.  The scenario occurs in reverse.  The conversation becomes absurd."

That comment brought up a powerful memory for me from college. In one class, we "practiced" hearing each other. One person would say something, and the other person would take a breath, think about what was said, and then repeat it back exactly as it had been said. If we couldn't do that, we were clearly not listening closely (nothing that we said was particularly tricky or complicated). The speaker would indicate that they had been heard, and now the listener would speak a response.

It sounded goofy. It sounded cliched. There were giggles and eye-rolls. As we began, it felt tedious and repetitive and boring.

But within 10 minutes, over half the students in the room were in tears.

When the professor asked why, the response was consistent and overwhelming. This was the first time in years that the students had felt like they were heard.

Author David Augsburger summed this up when he said:

“Being heard

is so close to being loved

that for the average person,

they are almost indistinguishable.”


It is the age old question, I know you heard me, but were you listening to me?

I like to consider myself the king of multi-tasker's, but we really struggle to listen and do anything else.

We need to be active listeners.  We need to make eye contact.  We need to see body language.

Hearing is single sensory, but listening is a multi sensory.

What words were used in what order?

What did the eyes say?

Were muscles tense or relaxed?

What was the tone or inflection?

Listening is more than just hearing.

I hear therefore I think.  Then again I don't hear therefore I don't listen.  

Depending on who you talk to.   My wife would argue I have selective hearing.   I do listen to her but I am sure I don't hear what she is saying all the time.   I feel that is how it is with listening to users.   Listening and hearing are not the same.   I believe a flaw i need to improve on is to hear more of what they have to say while continuing to listen.   Improving how you hear requires feedback you are willing to listen to.   I know that sounds easy but its actually much harder than it sounds.  I will let you know if i ever get it right.

In my road to self discovery I listen to the world around me and all i want to do sometimes is tune it out.   I don't really like all the noise and garbage being spewed about.   I love the internet age I only wish people could act like adults and stop trying to make us hear the garbage they are selling.   I would much rather hear to learn, grow, and change.  Maybe my selective hearing isn't so bad after-all, as long as my wife doesn't catch me...

Level 13

What a great illustration Leon.  Seems like this is one of those nearly universal things we deal with where we are trying so hard to be heard that we never actually return the favor ourselves.  Great reminder.

Level 11

As a sometimes teacher of technical skills and concepts, I always have to remember that sometimes hearing is not enough.  Most people really need to engage two or even three senses to be able to really absorb knowledge.  Statistically speaking, lecture alone is the least effective tool for transmitting information.  As the communicator, remember it is not enough for people to just hear you.  You also need to engage - other senses - be interesting - be active.

Here is an old quote - Confucius said -

I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember.

I do and I understand.

Level 13

hearing is one of the 5 senses of the human body...there is no skill involved.

Listening is a skill and an art, and requires focus and commitment...and separates managers from leaders.


I need to hear what is being said by those around me, to make sure I am handling the information correctly to resolve the customers problems. First and foremost I need to open my ears and hear the Lord when he speaks to guide my life.


One of the most common responses by marriage counselors "Have you tried the speaker/listener technique" Exactly what you are talking about Leon.

We in IT are guilty of being problem solvers so we listen until we think we have a solution and tend to plow on in. Sometimes that's not the problem at all and we spin our wheels and get frustrated at the person that brought the issue rather than evaluating how well we listened. Worse than that we take our "solve it" nature home in our personal relationships and everything begins to break loose - Or is that just me . . .

Level 9

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

No one dare

Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools” said I, “You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you”

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence

Simon & Garfunkel

Hear: verb.  Perceive with the ear the sound made by (someone or something).  :  "behind her she could hear men's voices".

I recall many teachers telling students “You may be able to hear me, but you’re not listening!”

I’ve felt the same way, many times, when working with dogs outside.  Yes, they can hear me. But they aren’t listening—something smells too good to pay attention to what they hear from me.

"Hear" has a casual relationship with "Listen", but so far they're only friends.


Level 12

Not truly hearing others (spouse, kids, friends, boss, co-workers) seems to be a problem that needs to be intentionally overcome because it doesn't come naturally.

I see the issue being linked to our "microwave mentalities" that if we can't get things fast enough, we move on to other thoughts. Or as Leon pointed out, something said will trigger a thought and send us spinning to argue/defend our point of view. Which if left unchecked, with do the same in whomever we're talking to and then we're looped into a vicious cycle of going nowhere.

Level 20

This made me think of a question once asked by a professor years ago... he said if you had to lose either your sight or your hearing which would easier to live with?  Most people initially think it would be sight but if you really think about it not being able to hear is actually really worse.  You can learn to get around without sight but not being able to communicate except through hand signals or maybe even lip reading (which isn't as simple as people think) is a rough handicap.

Level 9

I Struggle with this daily!!! As soon as someone starts explaining me something I always have questions pop into my head and it distracts me from fully listening to the individual.

Level 14

To hear is not enough

To listen is the key,

Passive will not cut it

Do so actively.

Level 11

I hear ya!!!!!!!!

Level 10


Level 10


An entirely different flavor than Simon & Garfunkel imagined:

Disturbed - The Sound Of Silence [Official Music Video] - YouTube

Level 9

Nice, but not as poignant as the original.

Level 12

I am one of the people who hear's a lot, but listens very little. My attention span is, ohhhh shinny, wait where was I going with that? Having ADD makes it a daily struggle to pay attention to something you are not intently interested in. This applies to most conversations for me as well. When in meetings, I do my best to follow along, but usually the train derails. I try to take notes if something is said that I want to come back to, but while I am taking that note I am not listening anymore, I hear the conversation but do not actually listen to it until I am finished.

Level 10

If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound..

Image result

Like out of site out of mind. It's easier to ignore things we aren't aware of!

Level 11


Level 11

Sometimes hearing is not what you need to do

Level 21

The lack of hearing has become a huge issue in the business place.  Just about every meeting I go into I see people looking down at their laptops, smart phones and tablets instead of listening and participating in the meeting.  A week later when we reconvene over half of the people in the room don't recall a thing from the previous meeting so we spend over half the time going over that stuff again and the following week the cycle continues.  This is a horrible waste of time and resources not to mention disrespectful.

Level 13

A problem I've experienced in coversations, as both speaker and recipient, is that even when listening we filter the information through pre-set interpreters.

Simple example:  Someone asks for your address.  What information do you reply with?  Street address?  Cube number? Email?  IP? URL?

Yes, context can help but you first have to make sure both ends of the conversation have their thoughts in the same context.

Level 12

Being heard is the result of listening, but as others have said, listening is an entity distinct from hearing.  One of my least favorite expressions is:  "I hear what you're saying, but...".  This really means that I hear you without actually valuing what you're saying enough to give anything other than an instant dismissal.  Sometimes that dismissal may be warranted, but more often than not it's just a barrier to effective communication.


Image result for talk to the hand

Level 9

Sometimes I hear what I want to hear. Sometimes? Probably more like 75% or better of the time. Like most eyewitnesses, what I remember from an event is about as subjective as something gets. I had gone to therapy and 12 step meetings for years but didn't seem to be getting all that much out of them. Well, I didn't feel I was getting as much as others had professed to be gaining from them. After much soul searching, the real point of these things I imagine, I felt I wasn't giving it my all in a couple ways. I wasn't paying enough attention to what others were sharing. Mainly because I was thinking of
something clever and witty to say when it was my turn. Then I noticed that when I did actually listen, I was looking for differences and how I was not the same as the person sharing. That was easy, especially if they were gay or a different gender, colour, etc. from me. After sharing this with both my doctor and my sponsor I started to work on being a little more inclusive. Instead of wondering about what I was going to say, i began to actually listen to others when they shared. More importantly, I looked for commonality with me. Things that happened to them or how they reacted and the ways in which I felt or had acted the same way. It took time but I actually began to enjoy hearing other's share. It is still a work in progress, though. Some people I just don't dig from the gate and I wish that wasn't the case. Sometimes the person sharing is so attractive or inappropriately dressed that my focus can be elsewhere. Considering that, I do a much better job than I used to. Sometimes I even hear opinions that are different than my own. ‘Progress, not perfection’ as the saying goes.

Listen once in a while. It's amazing what you can hear.

Level 12

Some only hear what they want to hear and disregard the rest of the conversation.

Level 11

Anyone ever hear of the saying, don't believe everything you hear.


Believe was a couple of days ago - seems like all these words are starting to intermingle a lot.

Level 11

Hear to listen so that you can listen to understand.

Thwack community says this

tulsiwabbottadatoleDezDanielleH mblackwe


Level 16

Hearing is something that is taken for granted, but not everyone can hear.

Level 12


Two things come to mind with this word for me.

First, I need to make sure that I hear what my colleagues, users, and business are saying or trying to say. It's easy being in IT to simply tune out if the first few words don't convince me that it's relevant to something I can change, control, or improve. To borrow an earlier word, I do my best to breathe - and listen all the way to the end. This person or group is coming to me because of a problem they're having - they're not making it up. They'd rather be doing their jobs. It's only common courtesy to fully hear what's happening, what the impact is, and if there's subtext I can parse to possibly help them. Sometimes it's hard to do, but I keep trying. If this stuff was easy, they wouldn't call it work.

Second, I need to hear what *I* sound like when having these conversations. I think lots of us have had those post-event cringes where we unwittingly and unintentionally maligned or scorned someone or something, and in this case our intentions don't matter - to the other person, they're only able to observe my actions. By hearing what the other person says - and being mindful to listen and hear myself in response - I can better communicate with just about anyone in my work environment.

Level 10

why, yes, of course!

I attended a Communications Class almost 2 years ago. A 2-day immersive study on professional and personal communication practices, behaviors, habits, and influences. We spent time discussing the differences between listening and hearing. adatole​ The example in your college class was similar to ours."Hearing" is the acknowledgement of someone speaking. "Listening" is the processing of information provided by the speaker. Listening is much much harder than Hearing.

Given that our attention span is much much different than it was 20 years ago it makes sense to adjust our communication patterns. Like in 140 characters perhaps? <wink>

Level 7

I lost quite a bit of my hearing while serving in the Army. I have an excellent set of hearing aids that I use when I need to hear what is being said. I have found that I actually retain more information when I don't wear them. I tend to look at the person speaking to watch what they are saying. It is different when on the phone, I can use one ear and focus on what the person is saying, asking for clarification if needed. When I wear the hearing aids, I hear the beep of my cellphone, the door slam, the radio 2 rooms over, the person in the next cube typing, the A/C unit on the roof, the police siren outside 1 or 2 other conversations and the server fan all the while I'm remembering the password to log onto that computer or looking for the phone number while I try to think about what will I be working on in a hour.

I think the most important thing to take away is there is a lot of noise that will get in the way if you let it. I truly am the only thing that I have any power or influence over. In other words, I can give my attention, but I can't always get another's.

I have a couple of hearing issues, one is tinnitus [constant ringing] and the other is the shape of my ears. When I sit in a restaurant it can be difficult for me to listen to people in front of me because the conversation behind me comes in clearer. Thus I have had to practice active listening for a long time. What it has taught me also is to be a good talker. I must give pauses in my conversation so that the others can participate. I am sure you have been in a conversation where someone just goes on and on and on and on and on ..... your attention phases in and out. So being a good talker makes for better listeners. I try yo reflect on not only what I said but how I shared it, particularly in large social situations.

Hearing is one thing I would miss tremendously. Music - opera, orchestra, rock, R&B, pretty much all of it. Theater - live plays and films. Lectures and Debates - podcasts, radio, live classes. I can not get enough of them all. Not that I mind reading -even subtitles on foreign language films, but I consume a lot of my world audibly. So I wear my Bose Noise Cancelling head phones in the datacenter if I am in there running cables or working with equipment.


Hearing and listening for me is very hard for me.  Many times a day I have the strongest of urges to help and assist but have to stop myself and keep hearing what the person or team is saying before I think and respond.

I was surprised by the reaction I received from the Studio team and Head Geeks at Thwackcamp this year.  They asked if I had done this type of thing before.  I said no but I have done some professional camera photography work over the years and tried to think of what would be required of me if I was directing.  Plus, many years ago I did attend Toastmasters on a regular basis.

Listen and be engaged.  Hear what others are saying and do not speak unless asked a question or have something concrete to add.

I am in the white first year ThwackCamp shirt below. When sqlrockstar spoke on stage right I would stare at the back of Patrick's head knowing that from the cameras point of view it would look like I was looking at sqlrockstar.  In some ways that it made it easier to focus on his voice, hearing what was said and reacting.




Along with this is knowing when to just sit back and listen to someone, or to listen and take action.   Guys will know this is particularly pertinent to relationships with women, while guys want to jump in and solve all the problems, sometimes women just want a guy to hear what they're saying.    Of course this goes both ways in the workforce, learning when to sit back and listen to someone, or when to step in and help.  But, if you don't start with the most basic level of hearing what they have to say and comprehending it, you won't have a chance to know whether just hearing was enough or whether you should try and step up and help out.

Level 16

I think due to too much loud music in my past i have the same issue. In a situation with background noise I can hear but can not understand what they are saying.

It is very apparent when checking in at a hotel, renting a car, and even at the bank.

Level 9

My wife asks me this all the time, I know I am good at multi-tasking and listening but sometimes it gets away from me. She thinks I hear her and am listening, but then you get lost in what you are doing. We need to HEAR what someone is saying to us and not tune them out. Hearing is a key to LEARNING and growing as a person.

For me, I have trouble with higher pitched voices.   Yes, ladies I am talking to you.  When I ask for a repeat, they usually go even higher in pitch so the increased volume is lost.  In the future for the repeat think "lower and slower" not "higher and louder".


I've played in many bands over the last 45 years, and the loudest ones with electronic amplification all caused me to wear ear plugs in self defense.

In 1980 I took college classes in Occupational Safety & Health and Industrial Hygiene, and was able to borrow a personal sound meter to wear during gigs.  They measured the intensity and duration of sound I was exposed to on stage.  I learned that in 4 hours of playing I was exposed to the equivalent of 8 hours of the legal maximum amount of sound.  Hence the ear plugs.

Even today, if I go to a rock concert in a stadium-style facility, I find I enjoy the music more--can hear it more clearly--with ear plugs in.  Who'd've ever expected that?


Earplugs are our friends! 

If I would have been wearing earplugs on that faithful day bird hunting, my hearing would be much better today.

I do not walk into any music venue without earplugs.  I don't care if it is Tony Bennet or Alice in Chains, I wear them.

For that matter, I use them at some restaurants as well.  Some of those eateries are LOUD.

I wear earplugs so one day, when I am really old, I can still tune an acoustic guitar without hearing aids or other amplification.


P.S.  I have no problem hearing any band with earplugs in.  I could even hear Tony Bennet sing acapella, without a microphone, for his encore.  He filled that large room with just his voice.  Take that you auto-tuned punks!  

There's a serious degree of talent required to sing consistently in tune naturally.  Using Auto-Tune may work for a studio recording, but all one needs do is watch any amateur smart phone video of pop or rock stars' live performance, and you'll know the difference if their records are Auto-Tuned or not.

Having the talent is key, and when a singer must rely on the talents of the studio engineers just to appear to sing in tune . . .  disappointing.

I enjoyed your comments about your range of concert experiences.  Now, how about listening to Tony Bennet in Chains?


What kind of mash-up would that be?

Level 10

It's hard to listen while you are also waiting to talk.  I do have ADHD and it's been a constant battle throughout my life to not interrupt people when they are speaking.  If I can hold myself back and not interrupt it's a 50/50 chance I won't even remember what I was going to say.

Tony Bennet sings Man-in-a-box with Alice in Chains! 

Tony could power right through that song.


Level 9

I've been going through on the job training. In the beginning, after a training session I would go into a deep dive on what I thought the major points of the session was about. After wasting time and causing unneeded frustration, I ended up doing what Leon's college class essentially did. I would distill the session into a brief summary and ask if I had hit on the main take away points.

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.