By April Terry (personal blog http://faithwarming.blogspot.com)
I know someone who listens like water circles a drain. This person will go around and around the subject in order to finally arrive at the main idea of the conversation. Sometimes when I talk, this person is hearing something totally different from what it is that I am trying to convey. Instead, they are considering all of the other possibilities and variables of the given situation, trying to find all the possibilities when the answer is at the center. For me, this means that when I communicate to this person, I have to find multiple ways to express the same idea until they finally hear and understand. I used to pride myself on my ability to communicate to others, but I am learning that the way people listen can be tricky sometimes. I am also learning that there are a lot of ways for people to take in information and how well people listen depends on their ability to process what is being said. For that reason, how I deliver a message is of utmost importance and is relevant to whom it’s being sent to.
Another problem that I have comes when I fall prey to interpreting someone else’s conversation emotionally. When I have an emotional connection to a person, I find that I hear them differently. I hear a look, a sigh, rolled eyes, or something else unspoken that gives me another message entirely. Under these circumstances, the actual words go out the window and get lost behind the emotion that I am experiencing.
My teenager has taken to interrupting me when he doesn’t want to hear something. From his perspective, if he is successful at shutting me down, then he won’t have to confront whatever hard truth it is that is about to be tossed from my lips. I find that I sometimes have to wait, and I am not a patient person, another lesson that I must learn about listening.
We also tune out. We stop listening completely and just smile and nod when things get a little boring. We are not fully engaged in the conversation. I always think I’m being sly when I do this, but others sense the lack of engagement and they lose interest as well. I have often caught myself thinking about my next words instead of focusing on what the other person is communicating. I can become so preoccupied with my own voice that I fail to hear what others say.
These listening pitfalls can be perilous when we are talking about matters of faith. These are the points of contention that those outside of the church have with Christians. Many Christians only want to convey their own feelings about God, and don’t want to leave any empty space for the person on the other side of the conversation. Most Christians want to tell stories, but not hear them. They are too busy telling to listen for God in someone else’s story. Imagine how that would feel if God did that with us.
In our senior ministry, I hear a lot of strange stories. I had a man tell me once that he had just come in on an F-16 and landed it upside down. I laughed and told him it must have been pretty tricky coming in like that. Because of this ministry, I am learning to listen not just to what is said, but to what is not said. I have learned to read eyes for tears, for desperation, and I am learning that the story may not necessarily be true, but it often reflects the inner fears and distresses that are pushing up to the surface and stealing someone’s peace. When I discover those deep things, I can pray about them.
I think that being a good listener is a greater skill than being a good speaker. Both are important, but a good listener hears more than just what comes off of the lips. A good listener hears the intent of the heart. I have always believed that this is what God hears from us. He hears our intent. He hears the content of our hearts. A good listener listens like God would.
February 25th, 2013 · 2 Comments
Categories: DE Thoughts