The Art of Listening

Listening. It seems so simple, doesn’t it? Most of us have decent physical hearing while those of us who don’t, wear a hearing aid. Yet, do we really listen? Do we quiet our inner thoughts, or do we think of what we’re going to say next? Are we able to truly listen with our hearts without prejudice? Do we respect another enough to not interrupt (unless there’s a fire or something), or do we finish others’ thoughts or correct them before they finish speaking? We say ‘I hear you,’ but do we really?

I think these questions surface in me as one of our youth needed to truly be listened to last weekend. Also, I understand firsthand what it’s like to not feel listened to, to not feel understood, and to not feel respected for my point of view. Webster’s defines ‘dialogue’ as ‘interchange and discussion of ideas, especially when open and frank, as in seeking mutual understanding or harmony.’ I daresay a lot of us don’t listen well. We have barriers to listening: our own agenda, mental or physical or emotional distractions, our own preconceived thoughts or ideas; the list goes on. Do I listen well? Likely not. I find myself wanting to interject my story, my viewpoint, and my thoughts, even if those are not wanted or needed. How are you doing with respect to your listening?

Lord Jesus, please help us to listen to those with whom we speak, in the manner we need to at the time, and in a way that is pleasing to You. Help us to understand not only the words but the intent behind them. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Copyright © 2016 by Theresa M. Williams

Holy Listening – part 2

The ‘know it all:’ You think the person speaking to you can’t possibly tell you something you don’t already know, so why listen? After all, you know everything, right?

Action: Just listen. You may discover something new, a different perspective, maybe even something useful and important.

The interrupter: Getting ahead of others, finishing their thoughts, acting as though what you have to say is more important than what they have to say. You’re presuming/assuming what they will say.

Action: If there’s a long pause, be patient and let them figure out their thought before they resume speaking.

The ‘one upper:’ Saying ‘oh, that’s nothing,’ and then comparing your experience to theirs such that yours ends up being bolder, better, and more dramatic. This minimizes what the other is saying and makes you look arrogant and them look/feel stupid—a definite ‘no no.’

Action: If you want to know more about their experience, ask gentle, polite questions or say ‘tell me more.’

General rule: If you’re unable to listen at the moment:

If possible, politely tell the person that now is not a good time to talk because you realize you can’t listen properly.

Ask to postpone the conversation until you can focus.

These behaviors and bad listening habits can definitely turn people off and make a negative impression. Do you really want to do that? Sometimes you don’t get another chance to make a good impression.

Copyright © 2015 by Theresa M. Williams