One Sunday, two teenage girls in the back of the church were giggling and disturbing those around them. The pastor stopped in the middle of his message and announced sternly, "Two of you have not heard a word I’ve said."
The girls stopped talking and started listening.
When the service was over, the pastor greeted people as they left. Several apologized profusely giving various excuses for not listening closely.
I’ve been working on listening skills—and I haven’t arrived at the point where I want to go. After joining Toastmasters, I notice when people say “um, ah, and er.” I’ve learned to evaluate what speakers say and how they say it. However, I still struggle to keep my full attention tuned to every word people say in every situation.
“Listening is a crucial component of communication. Real listening moves soundwaves past the curves of our ears into our minds and hearts, affecting our emotions and sometimes even our beliefs” (from my book 12 Ways to Make Your Words Count).
What stops us from listening?
Here are some possibilities:
- We come to the conversation with a predetermined attitude and no inclination to listen to another’s thoughts. If we would only listen, we might learn something new.
- We assume we know what the speaker is going to say. This can lead to misunderstandings. If we would only listen, we might develop a better relationship with the speaker.
- We are focused on our own needs. Perhaps we are tired or have a headache. Perhaps we are anxious about another subject or angry with another person. If we would only listen, we might turn our attention to someone and something besides ourselves. Often this makes us feel better.
- We hear what we want to hear. If we would only listen to opposing points, we might discover a new way of looking at issues. If we show respect to others by listening, they may show respect for our opinions as well.
- We don’t value others enough to hear what they have to say. If we learn to listen, we might grow to appreciate others more.
- We don’t listen to God. He alone knows the deep issues hidden in the hearts of those with which we converse. He often speaks to us during conversations with others, guiding our words so we provide encouragement or hope or whatever the other person needs.
Listening is not the same as hearing. How would you differentiate between them?
I’d love to listen to your thoughts about listening. Why not leave a comment?