I’m convinced that some of the most unpleasant people to be around are those who don’t listen. Interestingly enough, those who don’t listen are mostly oblivious to the fact that the listeners may be doing a silent scream of agony. After all, it’s no fun hearing the same viewpoints and repeated stories over and over again. People who truly listen are a rare breed. In fact, I’ll bet that you can name the people on one hand who really listen to you. I’m not just referring to the person who’s silent when you’re speaking to him or her. We all know that just because a person is silent and allowing you to speak doesn’t mean that they’re listening. Being a good listener requires practice, discipline, strength, sacrifice and a loving heart, but so much is gained through listening. A good listener gains insight, knowledge, understanding, and wisdom.
Admittedly, I am not a great listener, but I’d like to think that I’m a good one. On my journey to become a better listener, I’ve paid close attention to some of the things that people do who are great listeners because they tend to have very similar characteristics.
First, they are fully engaged, and their body language often says so. They aren’t texting or scrolling through their phones while another person is speaking to them. They give good eye contact and nod, smile, or give a look of concern at appropriate times. They are in the moment. Good listeners often say things like, “I understand,” or “Really?” or some other verbal response to let the person know that they are listening. People who are good listeners have an uncanny ability to block out annoying little distractions and focus on the conversation.
Good listeners also genuinely care. They aren’t self-absorbed and don’t feel the need to compete for air time. Conversations don’t need to be centered around them. They listen to get information and to let the person know that they care about the issue. Good listeners are empathetic and compassionate people. They often have the ability to put themselves in the other person’s shoes.
Good, godly listeners don’t listen to respond. They listen prayerfully, knowing that they aren’t necessarily listening to provide a solution if there is a problem. Once they get an understanding, they prayerfully consider what their conversation moving forward should be. They don’t tend to give knee-jerk responses.
Good listeners often ask questions to get a full understanding. They’re not quick to respond until they get the full picture. In fact, one of the great listeners that I have in my life has helped me so many times by just asking me questions. When I answer her questions, I find that I get clarity or a better understanding how I need to proceed.
As believers, we really don’t have a shortage of people who get the mic. In other words, everyone has something important to say. My question is, Who is listening?
Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. James 1:19a