When was the last time someone really stopped and listened to you? How about you… be honest… when was the last time you stopped, set aside your own agenda, and really listened without trying to figure out how you were going to respond and what you were going to say next or thinking about all the to-dos you had on your list? What an important skill and what a gift it is… this difficult thing called listening.
In our transition over the past few months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet many new people and test out this important skill. I’ll be frank… I’ve not always done it well! Trying to get stuff done, too much on my plate, unable to stop and set aside my own agenda and too tired to really pay attention… there are so many things that had gotten in the way of listening! Our busyness in life and our constant striving to achieve keep us from listening to our children, grandchildren, and our spouses. That doesn’t even touch on how flippant we can be with those who we just run into…
Poor listening causes so many unnecessary heartaches. Anger, misunderstandings, broken relationships, hurt feelings, and feelings of inadequacy just to name a few.
I’ve also noticed that people are starving for someone to just listen to them. There are so many people who just want someone to care enough to set everything aside and be present for them… not with any answers or advice… just a listening ear. You may be feeling that right now.
So how can you be a better listener? An old saying that has always struck me is:
“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” – Epictetus
Scripture speaks into this also:
To answer before listening— that is folly and shame. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV)
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. James 1:19-20 (NIV)
So, what it comes down to is take the time to listen. Take the time to understand. Take the time to respond appropriately. Stop what you’re doing, put down the electronics, suspend your own filters and agendas, and look the person in the eye… try to understand their situation… ask questions and then just listen. Some cultures teach about “reading the air”… hearing the hidden meanings and the needs behind the words… try listening for what’s behind the words. You will be astounded by what you will learn. You will be amazed at the leaps forward in building relationships. What an amazing gift you will be given when people start listening because you listened to them.
But hear this. God hears you. He is a faithful listener. It’s in Him that we can learn to become the listeners he has made us to be!
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles. The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:17-18 (NIV)
Let me know what you hear!