Who struggles with listening skills?
HERE I AM WITH MY HAND RAISED HIGH (but not proudly). I struggle with listening. I’m too busy forming more words and opinions instead of taking time to patiently listen. I also have a knack for interrupting (again, not proud). Quick comments, often negative and sarcastic, seem to fly out of my mouth without thought.
If you can relate, let’s commit to a journey of ‘Life Listening’. You in?
Back to back, major worldwide events so far in 2020 (the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive protests lately) certainly spark fresh, new opportunities to listen.
Why and How?
--> Listening Celebrates Uniqueness. ‘I Understand That I Will Never Understand’ is a sentence that prominently came to a friend’s mind recently. So true! Each person has experienced a different life story, and it’s not mine. I might be able to relate, but I cannot fully understand. Think about it … there are billions of life stories around the world and not one is the same as another. That’s miraculous! All are worthy to be listened to. If we are ever tempted to compare other stories to our own, we should recite this phrase in our minds: ‘That’s not my story’* but I’m listening.
Hint: APPRECIATE DIFFERENCES
--> Listening Displays Respect. ‘Be More Interested Than Interesting’ is from a message by a former pastor at my church, and is an important mindset to keep while engaging in conversations. Pay attention to the content of what is being said, not just casually hearing sounds and words while planning a comeback or comment about your own life that is clearly more interesting (oh how I wish I wasn’t such a pro at that!). Being interested and asking questions shows respect to the person communicating. The life represented matters. Each one is valuable. By the way, it's okay to respectfully agree to disagree.
Hint: ASK QUESTIONS
--> Listening Extends Empathy. ‘Rejoice With Those Who Rejoice; Mourn With Those Who Mourn.’ Romans 12:15 Empathy is a honest attempt to put yourself in the shoes of the person whom is speaking, even if you don't like their opinion. It’s sincerely trying to experience the same emotions as your fellow humans while hearts are being shared. Empathy = genuine care. Can we ever know 100% what another is feeling? No, but we can certainly try our best, leaving our own opinions and agendas aside for a hot second. We aren’t just with them in their emotional state, but we actually envision being in the same state … i.e. that puts me in YOUR feels.
Hint: EMPTY THE MIND OF SELF
Whether we are discussing comfort levels about wearing masks and returning to dine-in restaurants, or topics of race relations and suggestions for reform, or simply hearing someone out as they vent or pour out their heart about a certain viewpoint or experience, LIFE LISTENING IS ESSENTIAL.
The struggle is real, but I plan to take steps forward on this journey of ‘Life Listening’ as often as possible, and I hope you’ll join me! We are works in progress (Philippians 1:6), but God’s grace is abundant and #goals is a thing, a good thing. So is #growthopps. Let's listen to lives well.
Note: Not everyone communicates verbally, but elements of these concepts could still apply.
*'That's not my story' was the subject line of a mass email I received from JJ Heller last year regarding God’s design for each of us to have a unique purpose, which should be celebrated.