There’s a distinction we use at Landmark called “always already listening”. It’s a big one. When you think you’re listening to a person, you’re not actually listening to the person; you’re listening to your listening of the person.
In the case of people you’ve known a long time like a spouse or sibling, child or parent, the always already listening got decided long ago. Once the always already listening is in place, you never actually hear the person again (unless you do something to interrupt it).
If you meet someone new, you’ll have an always already listening decided in the first few seconds of meeting, often before he or she has spoken a word.
Human beings have always already listenings of others, of themselves, of situations, of possibilities.
I got a particularly clear example of the distinction the other day when I met a woman called J.
Update: I’ve deleted the rest of this post. It was a good one I thought, but it also conflicted with an agreement I’d made. Sorry, folks.