One of the common things I see women (and men) struggle with in the area of communication is listening. Listening is the first key to good communication! Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2 (NLT) What a great statement! I love Proverbs. They are full of wisdom, and reveal to us how we can detect a fool. This verse is the antithesis of a fool- someone who loves to talk and does not listen- unless he is listening to himself talk! The poor listener is not listening to understand, nor are they engaged in the conversation. If he listens at all, it is not because he “has interest in understanding” it is because it gives him a chance to speak. This is an arrogant person and one who wants to be center stage. He delights in calling attention to himself. The poor listener is quick to give advice or counsel. He who answers before listening- that is his folly and his shame. Proverbs 18:13 (NIV) “A quick retort can ruin everything.” Don’t be too fast to answer. Proverbs 13:3 9 (NLT) A fool loves the sound of his own voice. A poor listener will not hear what you do say. The poor listener is frequently an argumentative person. The Apostle Peter has been described by some as the disciple with the foot shaped mouth. Peter was impetuous and hasty in speech, and often he spoke without thinking. So many times while he walked with Jesus he said foolish things that he soon regretted. The greatest of these was when he denied Jesus those three times by the fire after the arrest. He lived with the shame and regret of his words until after Jesus rose from the dead and came to him as he was fishing.
Friends, how often have you lived with similar results of shame and regret after speaking in haste? How many times have you wished in hind site that you had just held your tongue another minute or two? He was too swift to answer, and replied out of fear for his own life. You might think that is completely reasonable considering the circumstances, however, an attentive listener demonstrates patience and an active listener demonstrates humility. “…consider others better than yourself…” Philippians 2:3(NIV) It is extremely humbling to have much to say and wait courteously until the other person is finished speaking. What you have to say can probably wait until the other person is finished, and you may learn in the meantime that what you would have offered is covered, or you would have embarrassed yourself by speaking up sooner. Please understand that active listening is not a passive activity! There are so many distractions, that it is easy to zone out while someone is speaking. To remove that temptation, remove yourself from the enticing distraction! Turn off the TV, go into another room, don’t attempt to do another task that requires concentration if you have indicated a willingness to listen to someone. Good listening requires attention. If you really can’t concentrate tell them so! It is much more polite to tell him that you are in the middle of something and just can’t listen attentively right now. Offer to call back or stop by in a designated amount of time, and then be good to your word. The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out. Proverbs 18:15 (NIV) Good listener’s seek out and probe for accurate and adequate knowledge of what the other person is trying to communicate. To be a good listener you must seek out and probe for accurate and adequate knowledge of what the other person is trying to communicate. Ask the following types of questions of the person speaking to clarify points that are unclear.
- What did you mean by that?
- What is your understanding of that word, phrase?
- What does this mean to you?
- What the Bible say about that?
It is a devastating error to draw conclusions without all the facts! Many arguments could be avoided, and many relationships salvaged if the people involved would just gather facts before making conclusions! You must listen to what is being said to you with “clear ears.” Clear ears are ones that are not waiting to pounce on everything being said and reply in attack mode. Clear ears are those that are not twisting and manipulating the words they are hearing! Listen carefully to the choice of words of the speaker and ask clarifying questions when appropriate. These responses will indicate to the speaker that you really are listening, and that you care about what he is saying to you. Once you have learned to listen, you have earned the right to speak! Listening is an art, it is something that must be cultivated, practiced and learned. You want to learn how to put off poor listening skills and put on good ones…biblical ones. That comes next time!