The Art of Listening
My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.James 1:19
This verse tells us to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and this should apply in all occasions. We may think listening is easy but in reality it’s hard work that requires concentration and focus. In his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” Stephen Covey states, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. And in doing so they may ignore the other person completely, pretend that they are listening, selectively hear only certain parts of the conservation, or attentively focus on only the words being said but miss the meaning altogether.”
The following are characteristics of a good listener:
- A good listener focuses on listening and not on responding. We often listen to our own thoughts preparing for a response and miss what the other person is saying.
- A good listener listens for more than words. We can learn certain characteristics about the person from their body language, such as tone of the speech and facial expression.
- A good listener will seek to let the speaker know that he or she is interested in what is being said. The level of attention to listening can affect how the speaker talks. Shifting focus away from the speaker is a giveaway that you are not listening or do not care what the person is saying.
- A good listener will follow up with good questions to better understand what the person has said. We can paraphrase a statement the person made for better understanding. If we can refer back to a point that the speaker made with a valid question, the speaker will know that we are listening. Responding with meaningful questions indicates that you are interested in what the person is saying and desire to fully understand.
Be quick to listen and slow to speak, and respond with wisdom. When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise (Proverbs 10:19). Develop the practice of listening intently, revealing to the person speaking that you are interested in what they are saying. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, (Philippians 2:3). How can we show respect to others if we don’t care what they have to say?
Today make an effort to improve your listening skills, letting people know that you are interested in what they have to say. This is very important with family members. Listening carefully is a way to tell them we care about them. If we are to listen to people carefully and give a caring response, then we must keep our emotions under control.
Let’s Pray: Lord, help me to have the patience and the desire to listen to others carefully and to respond in words to show that I am interested in what they have to say. I know this is how a Christian should interact with people because it shows that we have caring hearts. Let the Spirit slow me down to listen and respond in a way that is pleasing to you. In Jesus name, Amen.