the difficult art of listening well

the art of listening

Listening – truly listening – is an art. Something to be honed, developed and grown. While I’ve had my ears open for 26 years and I have heard and learned, but in the art of truly listening I am still a beginner.

Why? I’d estimate that 75% of the time when I am ‘listening’ or appearing to do so, I am thinking about one of the following things…

(a) what I am going to say when the other person finishes (or before, since I am also a notorious interrupter); or

(b) something entirely irrelevant (such as one night at bible study when I was ‘listening’ to one of the women speak and I had the idea for this very blog post…hmmm ironic); or

(c) how you’ve already told me this yesterday or two weeks ago and my memory is pretty good.

And so far I have drawn these conclusions about the above…

1. I am selfish

2. I like to talk about me and what I know

3. I am impatient

4. I want to be listened to by others. If I am not, I tend to think they don’t like/respect me….

I’m so not proud of that list. I’d like to feel and think those things a lot less – preferably not at all. So how to swap that percentage so that I am really listening 75% of the time (or even better 100%!) instead of 25%?

Adam thinks that it is much more interesting to learn about others’ lives and their opinions and that there isn’t a whole lot to be gleaned from one’s own chatter or sharing one’s stories again. I think he’s probably right. Who knows what precious gifts of wisdom or life experience may be hidden within those around us? The ones we’ve known for years or those we have just met. I want to be listened to so perhaps that starts with really listening to others.

I think that the key to being a better listener is to be deliberate about asking people questions. The other person will feel cared for and I have the opportunity to learn from their experiences. Now this idea of asking questions is not exactly a ground breaker, but it IS changing the way I relate to other people. I try wherever I can to think of good questions to ask friends and those I chat with. I constantly fail and find myself thinking about ME, but I am trying and I want to do better.

And as far as dealing with hearing the same stories multiple times, I think this is just part of life and God is teaching me patience & grace with people. I’d love to become so gracious that it didn’t bother me! Besides…I am definitely not perfect in this department!

I think the other aspect of this struggle is this: I spent 6.5 years training to be a lawyer, training to talk and give advice.  And I do love to give it, whether people want it or not… Adam has certainly received his share of the latter category over the years. In fact probably everyone I know…sorry guys I don’t know it all!

All this aside I do not want to neglect speaking up for truth and for those who can’t speak for themselves. And I do not mean to say that it is not ok to like being listened to – it’s just not a foundation for one’s self worth.

It all comes down to loving people regardless of their colour, age, religion or sex. And ultimately pointing them to the only one who is always listening and who truly loves them beyond comprehension.

3 Replies to “the difficult art of listening well”

  1. a great blog, Nai. I good mix of reflection, news and anecdotes. Thanks for sharing. It’s a nice insight into your character. I definitely think you are shining.

  2. beautifully made points Naomi… I am trying to listen better as well! It’s strange how it’s all about forgetting myself and immersing myself in someone else’s experiences… And I too have a need to be heard and understood – a need which can be met in Jesus, but sometimes you need Jesus with skin on!

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