Friday, December 2, 2011

The Art of Effective Listening

I said, "I will guard my ways that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth as with a muzzle while the wicked are in my presence." I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good, and my sorrow grew worse. My heart was hot within me, while I was musing the fire burned; Then I spoke with my tongue: Psalms 39:1-3

The Art of Effective Listening (Continued)
We close this week with some concluding points on the ministry of listening.  For families, businesses, marriages, churches or any place people interact or have a relationship this is a vital lesson.  All emotions are best handled through words.  But someone needs to listen to make them most effective.  We began with Seek to Understand and Give Your Undivided Attention.  Now...

Don’t interrupt. In James 1:19 the scripture says we should be “slow to speak.”  Far too often we think we know what the other person is going to say, so we jump in and finish his sentence for him. Unfortunately, we may miss his point entirely and our interruption only serves to confuse the issue. We may also be quick to express our disagreement, or to offer advice before we have fully understood the problem.  Solomon’s assessment of that bad habit is “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him” (Proverbs 18:13).  Have you seen the poster that says, “If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s somebody talking while I’m interrupting”? It may get a chuckle, but probably it reflects a sad slice of reality in our own thinking.

We interrupt in other subtle ways.  A look on our face can say, “Oh brother, here we go again.  How many times do I have to listen to this?” and stifle communication and build resentment.  If God wants us to listen to each other, we will need to put a high priority on it.

Listen non-defensively. Some of us would rather not listen because we’ve already made up our minds on the subject, or we anticipate some criticism, or some demand for change.  We cut the speaker off, change the subject to something more to our liking, or raise our defenses before he ever finishes.  That hardly expresses the love of Christ.  Note: If I won’t even listen to change what makes me think I can be changed.  Just as we should be doers of God’s Word and not hearers only (James 1:22), so we should be open to accept new information from other people that differs from our own long-cherished views, and willing to consider making changes that God may want us to make.  

Say something.  We all know that silence may be golden, and there may be times when two people just want to enjoy each other’s company without saying a word.  But silence as a response to being spoken to can be ambiguous.  It could communicate anger, disagreement or defiance on one hand, but understanding, acceptance or consent on the other.  It may mean “I don’t think you’re worth listening to,” or it simply may mean “I don’t know what to say.”  But inevitably it will be interpreted to mean, “I don’t care what you’re saying.” And that hurts.  To say something will at least let people know we are listening and that we care.

Say something like, “I understand what you are saying.” Or “I can appreciate that.” Or “It sounds to me like you …” and then recapitulate what you think the other person has said. That is his clue that you are interested and want to hear more. And that is the loving thing to do. When we truly love one another, we won’t be asking any longer, “Who’s listening?” It will be obvious that we all are listening to one another, that we want to understand each other and get along with one another, and so glorify our Lord.
Scripture to Claim:
But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation. My God will hear me. 
Micah 7:7

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