Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Art of Listening

Have you ever had a hard time hearing someone before? My son just got tubes put into his ears recently. He has had trouble for awhile hearing us. He occasionally mixed up words he heard and he could only hear parts of what we said at times. I mentioned it to the doctors years ago, but he passed all the required tests so nothing was done. I am surprised that he has managed so well all this time and even got incredible grades in the process. It wasn’t until after really pushing this time that they finally did more tests to find out he wasn’t hearing everything correctly. Hmmmm… you think?

Hearing is pretty important. It affects every part of our lives. Can you imagine if you lost your hearing how it would affect your life? What would you NOT be able to do anymore? How would it affect your day? Think about it. It would be difficult to drive, talk on the phone, shop, go to school, order fast food, etc… As we get older, the harder it is for us to hear. For some of us today whether we realize it or not, our hearing has been impaired for some time. People all around us are talking, but we are missing what they are saying. We aren’t really listening.

Have you ever been in a conversation where you couldn’t get a word in edgewise? You were forced to do all of the listening because that person wasn’t that interested in what you had to say. Have you ever been guilty of talking more than you listen? Listening is an art… and something we need to learn to practice. Listening is taking hearing a step further. We don’t just hear what someone is saying, but we listen intently and back it all up with genuine emotion in response.

The Bible talks about listening in James 1:19. It says… “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. I think God intended for us to listen MORE than we talk. Why should we listen? You can learn a lot about a person by listening. If you listen really close, you can hear their heart. When you take the time to really listen to someone, it shows you genuinely care about them. So, how do we learn to become a better listener…

The first step to learning how to listen is to let the person you are talking with speak first. Treat them as the honored guest in your conversation. Ask them questions and set out on a quest to learn something new about them each time you interact.

As a listener we should be…
~like an archaeologist digging for the truth
~like a reporter investigating the facts
~like a writer gathering information

The second step to learning how to listen is to motivate and inspire the person you are talking with to share. Look for ways to get them to talk. Ask lots of questions and really listen to their answers so you can learn more about them. Show interest in what they are saying and stay engaged in the conversation. Their job is to do the same for us! Sometimes that happens and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way YOU need to CHOOSE to be a good LISTENER.

Think about your last conversation. Replay it in your mind. How much did you learn about the person you talked with? Did you listen long enough to hear their heart? What were they excited about? What was troubling them? Did you leave them encouraged and uplifted… better for having been with you?

The third step to learning how to listen is to share only when asked and briefly. Don’t monopolize the conversation. Sometimes less is better. Give them a chance to inspire you to share. Let them dig a little deeper into your life. Your relationships will grow richer and deeper as you learn to invest in other's lives through listening.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I struggle to be a good listener especially with my family. I get busy, distracted, or uninterested in what’s going on and really miss what is being said. What a great place to practice our listening skills. They are the ones that will notice the difference immediately. I dare you to try it!

I think you will be surprised at how your relationships will change as you begin to practice the art of listening. Let God lead you as you begin your next conversation and watch as He uses you in ways you never imagined. Let the conversation begin…

Living to leave a Legacy!

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