5 Ways Anyone Can Become a Better Listener
"We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we speak." – Epictetus (Greek philosopher)
“How are you?
“Good. I just…”
“Great! It’s good to see you, got to go. Have a nice day!”
Does this sound familiar? How many of us have been in a conversation like this? I’m guessing most of us have!
So often, we just say, ‘good’, when asked how we are, and leave it at that- even if we’re not good. We’ve become so accustomed to this familiar repartee that we don’t usually think twice about it.
I’ve been on both the giving and the receiving end of such exchanges.
We could say it’s just a cultural quirk that many Americans have (I don’t know if it’s common elsewhere)- that strange way of asking a question as a greeting, while not expecting a real answer. The greeting example may not be a big deal- but I think we all know what it feels like to be involved in deeper conversations and feel like the other person doesn’t really care at all about what we have to say. It feels awful.
We all want to feel like we’re heard and understood.
Think about someone who you love to be around, someone who has lots of friends. Are they a good listener? They are. I’m sure of it. People naturally gravitate to those who are good at listening.
Listening well is a skill that needs to be taught. It doesn’t come naturally to everyone- but everyone can learn.
I once heard that the reason so many people love to talk so much is not that they love to hear the sound of their own voice, but because, in talking, people are able to clarify what they think. It reveals something about them.
The same kind of pleasure can be found in reading a great book. Great books always show the reader something about themselves, which is what makes them interesting.
We can apply this to listening. We can learn a great deal about ourselves from others, too, by listening. But first, we need to back up and understand something.
Good books have good editors. An editor helps draw additional information and clarification from the writer. An editor helps the writer stay on track and keep to the relevant and interesting details. When you are listening to someone, think like an editor: ask questions, clarify. When we do this, we help people tell better stories. Not only will we derive more pleasure from the conversation this way, but also we might learn something. At the same time, we are showing that we care when we listen.
“The first service that one owes to others in the fellowship consists in listening to them. Just as love to God begins with listening to His Word, so the beginning of love for the brethren is learning to listen to them. It is God’s love for us that He not only gives us His Word but also lends us His ear.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
My word for 2018 is savor. I want to savor what’s right in front of me, appreciating the gifts that come with each day. This is where good listening comes in. When I’m having a conversation with someone, I want to savor it. I want to be a better listener. I want that person to know that I value them and that they are worth my time and attention.
I also want to be a better listener in my relationship with God (a post on that, soon to follow).
Who’s with me?
How can we be better listeners?
Here are 5 ways anyone can be a better listener:
1. Put everything down and focus on the person in front of you.
Get rid of distractions. This sends a message to the other person that you have an interest in what they have to say.
2. Encourage the speaker
Nodding your head, occasionally making a sound such as, ‘mmm’, leaning towards the person, asking questions, and referring back to something said earlier…all these are ways to encourage the speaker to go on.
3. Use clarification
Ask appropriate follow-up questions and re-state important points to make sure you’re understanding what the person is saying.
4. Separate disagreement from criticism
Disagreement and criticism are not the same.
5. Don’t moralize
Keep an open mind and avoid jumping to judgment.
2017 was a year that revealed some deep differences among people. There was a lot of loud talking- but not so much listening. I saw my own need to listen more and try to understand where people were coming from when our opinions were on such opposite sides. If we all listened more, I think we could come a long ways towards a more peaceful 2018.
Proverbs 1:5 “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.”
My list on being a better listener isn't comprehensive. I'm sure you have some great ideas, too! I'd love to hear them in the comments! Also, I'm listening if you want to tell me what kind of topics you'd like to see here on the blog this year. I value your opinions.
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Linking up with Deb Wolf at #faithandfriends (Friday), #GraceandTruth (Friday), Holly Gerth at #coffeeforyourheart (Wednesday), Carmen at #salt&light (Thursday), Kelly at #RaRalinkup (Tuesday), and Lori at #Momentsofhope (Monday)
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