In a world with so much noise and so many opinions we’ve lost the art of listening. We are people who want to be heard instead of humans who want to hear.
With that said, here are nine reminders for helping us listen better:
1.Listen with your whole self.
Make eye contact with the person. No looking at your phone or the people around you like they have something better to say than the person sitting in front of you. Watch your body language. Are you closing yourself off or open to hearing what is being said?
2. Listen without interruption.
Let the person have the floor when they are speaking. To master the art of listening we need to put on hold the thoughts that come to mind until the person is done talking. Often times people don’t want to be fixed, they want to feel heard.
3. Listen “actively”.
Sometimes, in order to understand what you’re hearing you do need to interrupt, not to interject your opinion but to make sure you’re on the same page. For example you can ask questions like: “Are you saying that _____?” “What I heard you say is _____.” “Help me to understand this part better. Did you mean to _____?”
4. Listen with understanding.
As the person is speaking you can show them you understand by nodding your head or saying things like yes, ahhhh, mhmmm, okay. It sounds like so trivial but it’s important to let the person know you’re not a zombie or have fallen asleep or wandered off in your mind.
5. Listen without thinking.
This sounds dangerous doesn’t it? What I mean is try not to start formulating a response before you hear all of what they have to say. We cannot wholehearted listen if we are preparing our rebuttal/rebuke/recommendation. Don’t’ miss important parts and pieces because you think you know the answer.
The one who gives an answer before he listens—this is foolishness and disgrace for him. (Proverbs 18:13 CSB)
6. Listen without judgment.
Nothing shuts a conversation down faster than feeling judged. How can someone listen to your counsel and receive instruction so they can be wise later in life (based on Proverbs 19:20 CSB) if you can’t hear them without judging them.
7. Listen mindful of non-verbal communication.
About 60-75% of communication is non-verbal. A lot can be said with no word ever being spoken. Watch the body language of the person you are speaking to: are they shutting down, closing off, not making eye contact, looking uncomfortable. Watch your own as well: are your arms crossed, are you looking everywhere but at your person, are appearing open to listening?
8. Listen in a good environment.
It can be really difficult to listen to another person with too many distractions around. Put your phone away, turn off the TV, find a quiet place to talk. By removing all the things that make it hard to listen you are relaying the message that you care and you want to really listen.
9. Listen by looking.
People watching can teach us a lot about the art of listening. Observe how they interact with each other. Watch their body language as they talk. Do they look at each other? Are their phones distracting? Keep a list of do’s and don’ts that you notice. If you’re brave you can ask someone you trust what your strengths and weaknesses are when you’re having a conversation.
What if we all took to heart the wise words of James when he asks us to understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger… (James 1:19 CSB)
The world would be a better place. Yes and amen.
This post is a series of 31 days of writing prompts. The table of contents with links for each day can be found here: 31 Days of Prompts and Circumstance