Two psychiatrists meet at their 20th college reunion. One is vibrant, while the other looks withered and worried. "So what's your secret?" the withered looking psychiatrist asks. "Listening to other people's problems every day, all day long, for years on end, has made an old man of me." "So," replies the younger looking one, "who listens?"
This funny little story highlights the importance of listening. It also highlights the work that goes into what experts call “active listening.” Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication. Listening, as I have said, is hard work that demands certain skills. If there is one communication skill that we should aim to master, then listening is it my friends.
The Apostle James gives us some wise advice. He states, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19 (NIV) The Amplified Bible puts it this way, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving]” In this verse, there is a triad of counsel. First, the importance of listening. Secondly, the importance of speaking and thirdly, the importance of self-control. To me, the striking thing about James' counsel is that it starts and revolves around listening. I used to think I was a pretty good listener until I started to reflect on it Biblically and practically. I very quickly came to the conclusion I had a lot to learn about becoming a better listener. I am a work in progress. Please pray for my wife (LOL)
This comes to us from Leadership Magazine, Vol, 1, No, 4 p, 99. It simply asks “How Good a Listener Are You?”
1) Since you think about four times faster than a person usually talks, do you use this time to think about other things while you're keeping track of the conversation?
2) Do you listen primarily for facts rather than ideas when someone is speaking?
3) Do you avoid listening to things you feel will be too difficult to understand?
4) Can you tell from a person's appearance and delivery that there won't be anything worthwhile said?
5) When someone is talking to you do you appear to be paying attention when you're not? 6) Do certain words and phrases prejudice you so you cannot listen objectively?
7) When listening are you distracted by outside sights and sounds?
Makes you think doesn’t it!?
To me, effective, careful, thoughtful listening starts with a commitment to love Biblically. Listening is one of the most loving things we can do. It takes patience, a desire to the put the other person's interests ahead of our own and the commitment to seek to know and understand them. Listening changes us!
Secondly, effective listening takes time. We must take time to set aside our agenda and listen for understanding. The goal is not to respond but to understand. We have no basis for accurate communication until we have understood.
Thirdly, in the process, we need to ask questions and get feedback from the speaker. Try asking, “so I understand you to be saying?” Be sensitive to their reply. Be patient.
Fourthly, look for clues, like body language and expressions, to help interpret what others are feeling and saying. Often times they convey a strong message too; they convey the true message of the heart.
And fifthly, pray. Ask God to oversee the process, to help you understand and to give you wisdom where needed. Remember what a powerful instrument of God’s grace you can be when you sincerely listen.
Teenage prostitutes, during interviews in a San Francisco study, were asked: "Is there anything you needed most and couldn't get?" Their response, invariably preceded by sadness and tears, was unanimous: "What I needed most was someone to listen to me. Someone who cared enough to listen to me."
To me, listening is so important. I cannot emphasis it enough. I know in my own life, I love and appreciate people who really take the time to listen to me. It means the world to me and to those people I say thanks! Listening is an ongoing skill that we develop over a lifetime.
Some days, we are going to be better listeners than other days. That is ok. What we really need to do is to understand the importance of listening and to ask God to help us as we listen. As one person has written, “The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important things we give each other is our attention.” Philippians 2:4 ESV states, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” That starts, my friends, by listening.
God bless you and keep you. May His love sustain you. Hang in - Pastor Ralph