Our pastor recently gave a thought-provoking sermon on prayer. While extolling the virtues of communicating with God, Pastor Jim also emphasized the two-way aspect of the discipline. “Prayer is more than rattling off a laundry list of needs and concerns,” he explained. “We need to “be still and listen to what God has to say.”
I keep trying, but truthfully it’s often a struggle to clear my cluttered mind long enough to hear from the Almighty. And that got me to thinking. Do I keep my mouth shut long enough to actually listen to those around me? The answer? A resounding NO!
Listening does not come easily for me. Most of my adult life, I was paid to talk. As a TV newscaster and public speaker, “dead air” is the enemy and must be filled with something…anything. Even in social situations, I’m the one yakking – not listening. So it’s come as something of a revelation that I can do more with my ears than I can with my mouth.
In her book, “Listening to Others,” Joyce Huggett relates personal experiences of listening to suffering people. She said they often talk about all she’s done for them. On many occasions, she wrote, “I have not “done” anything. I have just listened.” Joyce says she quickly came to the conclusion that “just listening” is indeed an effective way of helping others.
According to author, David Roper, listening is a lost art. We don’t listen well and we aren’t used to being listened to. Most of our words simply fall to the ground.
I don’t want to be like that anymore. Says Roper, “I want to listen well so that when I finish conversations others will walk away knowing there’s at least one person in this careless world who has some inkling of what they’re doing, thinking and feeling.”
Here are some things I’ve learned about listening from Roper’s essay, “Learning to Listen.”
1. When I’m thinking about an answer while others are talking – I’m not listening.
2. When I give unsolicited advice – I’m not listening.
3. When I suggest they shouldn’t feel the way they do – I’m not listening.
4. When I apply a quick fix to their problem – I’m not listening.
5. When I fail to acknowledge their feelings – I’m not listening.
6. When I fidget, glance at my watch and appear to be rushed – I’m not listening.
7. When I fail to maintain eye contact – I’m not listening.
8. When I don’t ask follow-up questions – I’m not listening.
9. When I top their story with a bigger, better story of my own – I’m not listening.
10. When they share a difficult experience and I counter with one of my own – I’m not listening.
Ouch! Based on this list, I am officially a lousy listener. If you are, too…how ‘bout we try putting aside our “Chatty Cathy” ways, put a sock in it and let the other guy talk.
Maybe he just needs someone to listen.
Contact Carol by emailing her at Carol@pph.org.