Saturday, April 25, 2009

Listening Skills

Sometimes I half-jokingly say that Preachers and Car Salesmen are two groups of people who never know when to stop talking; and of course it's virtually impossibleto LISTEN when you're talking; no wonder, then, that as you read through the Bible you see many instances where we are admonished to be quiet, be still, listen, be "slow to speak", and so forth. There are even a few times in Scripture when God (or an angel) removed, for a short time, a person's ability to speak at all!

There are lots of resources on the Internet, like this one and this one, that can help us understand how to listen (if only we will take the time toSTUDY them and put them into PRACTICE)... We chuckle, too, when we recall how our late Grandma Kate used to get so bothered by what she felt was any surplus of speaking around her (she used to turn off the sound on Cardinals baseball games, which she loved to watch on TV, and when asked why, she'd say, "too much talkin'!")

I wanted to mention Listening Skills here to draw attention to the role that LISTENING plays in the all-encompassing mandate for Christians, the focus that overshadows everything else about the Christian life:

Good LISTENING skills send a message to the speaker that you care about what they are saying and therefore about them, in general. You can use not only your ears but your face, your eyes, your shoulders, your hands, the overall position of your body, and even your voice (for appropriate, responsive, non-interrupting Feedback) to convey to the speaker some unspoken messages, like "I'm interested in what you're saying" ... "I care about what you care about" ... "You, and what you are expressing, are important
to me" ... "You are a valued person!"

I've been in "discussion classes" where there wasn't much "discussion" going on because the leader of the class was not only driven to deliver his material (short-circuiting any "discussion") but also, when anyone did insist on getting a comment in there, he would "hurry them along" with a stream of "uh-huh...right...sure...that's right"...  I've seen "debates" where the exchange of ideas never got off the ground because neither side was LISTENING to the other, and shouting matches took over... I've seen fathers berate their sons, verbally over-powering the poor boys who were just trying to make a point that, if heard, would have changed the father's position on a certain issue; and I've watched their exasperation as the father shouted them down... I've been at club meetings, and work meetings, and church meetings, etc., where I am asked a question and I hardly get two words out of my mouth before the questioner is talking over top of me, never letting me finish, and then asking their question again...

The Bible has much to say about controlling the Tongue; so imagine what it would be like if we began to regularly and sincerely practice LISTENING SKILLS? How might it soften our relationships with our spouses if we conveyed LOVE to them simply by listening to what they have to say and demonstrating that their thoughts and expressions are important to us? How might we deepen our relationships with our kids if we spent more effort listening to their thoughts and feelings and responses, instead of over-powering them with our authority?

How much more successful would we be at work if we sharpened the skill of listening to what bosses, peers, and subordinates want to say to us? How much more vibrant would our CHURCHES be if the leadership regularly, pro-actively, and sincerely sought out the thoughts and feelings and Feedback of the congregation? (When was the last time you heard the pastor say something like, "drop me a note, or send me an email, and let me know how you think the Staff is doing here... Help us understand how to SERVE you better... This is YOUR church"? Probably never?)

One of the practices we enjoy at our church is the several segments throughout the service where we are all QUIET, for several minutes at a time. And just as we need Quiet as part of the practice of showing reverence to God, we need Quiet so that we can demonstrate LOVE to those around us by LISTENING to them.

May God help us all to be "QUICK to LISTEN, slow to speak, and slow to Anger"...

1 comment:

Charity said...

Ouch...(thank you!)