Why is it that when we are talking we want everyone to stop what they are doing, give us their full attention, & hang on every word we’re saying, but often when others are speaking to us we allow our minds to wander like crazy? If you’re anything like me, you are constantly thinking about the next great thing you want to accomplish, on the move, & thinking of what’s happening 10 years from now. While that can be good, it can also keep you from being fully present with those right before you.
If you desire to thrive in your relationships you need to learn to listen skillfully & intentionally
& you need to practice.
Listening takes skill – Hearing someone is extremely different from listening to them. I can hear my wife ask me to take out the garbage, but listening to it allows for heart penetration that moves me to action. I can hear my friend share about his struggles, but listening compels me to empathize with him & articulate words or actions that will bring comfort, strength, & encouragement. Listening goes beyond the taking in someone’s words; it takes in mannerisms, considers tones, empathizes with emotions, & filters through hardness.
Listening takes intention – When you listen to someone what are you looking for? Are you trying to just sit there long enough until their verbal vomit is fully released or are you listening to understand what is beneath it all? Intentional listening is fully present with the person speaking. It is fully concerned with what is being shared. And, it is fully engaged in heart with the one who is speaking. Listening chooses to rigorously fight to focus the heart, mind, & emotions on the person that is sharing.
Listening takes practice – You cannot grow in any skill if you do not practice; so it is with listening. James commands us to be, “Quick to listen, slow to speak & slow to become angry,” (James 1:19). In sports when you want to develop quickness you have to exercise your fast twitch muscles, work on fast, explosive movements, & repetition is key.
The same goes for listening. You need to train your ears, heart, & mind to be quick to engage with the person in front of you; stop letting your mind wander, train it to connect. You need to be fast & explosive in engaging your heart with your friend, family member, co-worker, spouse, etc. And, you need to do this over & over in your relationships in order for you to learn to do it well & for those who you are speaking to know that you are truly listening.
Listening is an art that is absolutely essential for you to master if you hunger to have fruitful relationships. Therefore, invest in your relationships by learning to listen. Determine to show those around you that you care by being quick to listen.
Let’s Do This Together
How do you feel when you speaking & you know the person is not listening? What specific obstacles do you struggle with when it comes to listening to someone else? What are you going to focus on to become a better listener?