Communication is more important than ever in our high-speed, high-tech world, and yet we seem to be devoting less and less time to really listening. Have you noticed that genuine listening is becoming obsolete?
Hearing and listening are two different animals. Hearing refers to the sound that enters your ears. Listening, however, requires more. It requires focus and concentrated effort, both mental and at times physical.
There is an art to listening well
I’ve had a few great teachers who have helped me hone my listening skills. I have a long way to go at mastering the art of listening, mind you. But because I believe listening is a critically important skill, I want to share a little about my teachers and the lessons I learned from them.
I inherited the gift of gab from my mom. She was a real sensei—with a black belt in talking to strangers as well as public speaking. Yet, she humbly admitted her gift was also a weakness because she often failed to listen when others were talking. Determined to do something about her lack of listening skills, she prayed and asked God to help. And he did. I was a witness to the progression.
Being A Good Listener is a Choice
Mom recognized she needed help and chose to do something. She asked the Lord to help bridle her tongue.
“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” James 1:26
Be Willing to Learn
Humbly seek God’s guidance and supernatural strength through His word and other godly resources.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out.” Proverbs 18:15
My husband, Scott, is a reserved man unless the conversation is about sports, that is. He is also a ‘thinker’. It takes him a while to answer even simple questions, which at the beginning of our relationship drove my bananas. But I’ve learned to respect this quality. Now, when he does speak, I’m all ears because I know it is something well-thought-out and most likely important.
I come from a family of people who say what they think. I remember during an argument many years ago, Scott telling me, “You know, you don’t have to say everything you think.” What an epiphany!
You cannot listen well if you’re still talking.
“Set a guard over my mouth, Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” Psalm 141:3
Because my husband is a thinker, I have learned to wait and make sure he’s finished his thought process before I speak. I look at his face for visual cues. If I interrupt him, I may miss what he wanted to communicate.
Wait Patiently During a Lull
“Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” Proverbs 18:13
My middle son, Chad inherited his grandma’s gift of gab. From a young age, the boy had a way with words and he wanted everyone to listen. If I was busy doing another task while listening to him, he would become frustrated. Once he even put both hands on either side of my cheeks saying, “Wook (look) at my eyes, Mommy.”
Our body language speaks without words. We should make eye contact, nod, and acknowledge the person we are listening to.
“My son, pay attention to my wisdom; listen carefully to my wise counsel.” Proverbs 5:1 (emphasis added)
When my kids grew into teenagers, communication became more of a challenge. There were more interruptions, less time to talk, and they were being exposed to new ideas. I had to learn to listen without judging or jumping to conclusions.
Keep an Open Mind
“Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19
When telling my young children to do a task, I often would ask them to repeat it back to me. “What did Mommy ask you to do?”
Once my daughter gave me a dose of my own medicine saying, “What did I tell you I want for dessert, Mommy?” I laughed, of course! But it helps to make sure the message was received the way we intend.
Once the person is finished talking, it’s important to let them know that we heard and understood them correctly. This is also the time to ask if they want feedback on what was spoken.
“Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinion.” Proverbs 18:2
One of the most powerful ways to love and connect with another person is to listen—really listen.
Have you noticed that listening well is becoming a lost art? What tips work for you?
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