Selective Hearing

What is selective hearing? Selective hearing is a type of selective attention and involves the auditory system of the nervous system. Selective hearing is characterized as the action in which people focus their attention on a specific source of a sound or spoken words. So says Wikipedia.

My first experience I remember with selective hearing was with my pet turtle. I had wanted a pet for some time and this was my mother’s answer to my want. I suppose it was an attempt to determine my level of responsibility. I forget the name I gave this turtle but it’s hearing was 100% selective. At least that’s the impression I got.

A few years passed and my family moved to a country setting. At one point we had several dogs: a St. Bernard named Charlie; a Husky (for a short time) named Smokey; and, a Border Collie named Duchess.

Charlie was a classic St. Bernard. I would talk to Charlie and he would stare at me with drool pooling on whatever was beneath his monstrous lips. Charlie was fun to play with except when it was time to go to church. Charlie did what he wanted when he wanted.

Smokey was lively and always excited to see me. It didn’t matter what I said he just wanted to play. Smokey was a pup and acted like he believed everything I said and was happy about it.

Duchess was my friend. She actually listened. I would talk and she would listen, many times with her head cocked to one side. Sometimes, she would talk and I would listen along with anybody else within proximity. We didn’t speak the same language but at times we understood each other. And, as friendships go, at times we didn’t.

Selective hearing with animals is understandable.

Selective hearing with humans gets complicated.

Have you ever had somebody say your name with his or her voice raised followed by, “Did you hear me?” or, “I’m talking to you!”

I’ve heard that and said that. Perhaps you have too.

It is true we can learn to be selective in our hearing. It is also true we can unlearn our selective hearing.

Relationship communication is hampered greatly when selective hearing is engaged. Conversations can be tuned out in their entirety until key words get our attention and our interest is caught.

We are creatures of the moment and much is battling for our attention during each moment.

It is not that relationships are unimportant. It is that many times we allow things to monopolize our minds at times when our minds should be paying attention to relationships that we deem important in our lives.

There is a phrase called, “Active Listening.” Prepare/Enrich uses this term when teaching communication skills. One person speaks while the other listens. Then the listener reiterates what they heard.

Sometimes what is heard is not always what was said. When this happens the initial comment can be restated until both individuals are on the same page.

Do not assume you have somebodies attention when you speak. Make sure you have their attention! This will reduce the level of frustration in your life. Sure its work and maybe you shouldn’t have to take the extra step but the benefits are there if you do.

If you are one guilty of selective listening you might consider becoming adept at active listening. There is a great chance this would improve each relationship in your life.

Try active listening with your children. Try active listening with your spouse. Try active listening with your God.

Do this and you may be amazed at how peaceful life becomes.

“He that hath an ear let him hear…”


  1. Pastor Zotzman on May 5, 2018 at 1:08 pm

    Awesome article ??

  2. Dallas Brock on May 5, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    What? Did you say something? ? Great article!

  3. Wendy Erickson on May 7, 2018 at 10:53 am

    And what a great reminder that we also frequently use selective hearing when Jesus is speaking to us! Great article.

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