How many times has the following scenario happened to you?
You are talking to someone someplace... they are going on about a subject that doesn't particularly interest you. They have been talking for a few minutes now, and you haven't gotten a word in edgewise... not that you have *anything* to say about this particular subject anyway... bored, you begin to zone off. You look around the room you are in. You make a mental note on the person's hair, their outfit... Your mind wanders... 'I wonder what we're having for lunch today'....
I have had this happen to me *so many times* before. As a matter of fact, it happened to me rather recently. But as I stood there, letting the other person go on, I realized something. Something obvious, really, but a truth I have been conveniently ignoring. Not paying attention to what the other person is saying is really, really inconsiderate. I snapped my attention back to what they were saying, and for the rest of the conversation, I tried extra hard to pay attention.
Later that very day, I engaged in an activity which is not out of the ordinary for me on Sunday afternoons: I read the local newspaper. A particular article caught my eye. "How to Be A Good Listener".
Well, if that wasn't positively providential....
I continued to think about this for the rest of the week, and realized more and more how inconsiderate it is to not pay attention when another person is talking, and how often I really don't pay attention. Not only in conversations, but how often have I zoned out during a speaker's teaching or during preaching? How many times has my mom talked to me about homeschool curriculum or menu planning, and I have been a million miles away??? This is definitely something I have been very guilty of, but I am working hard to change it!
Listening is a skill that needs to be practiced and developed just as you have to practice an instrument or work on a good habit. Below are some reasons why to practice good listening, and tips on how to be a good listener.
Why should we be good listeners??
1. Being a good listener shows others you care about them.
When you are not paying attention to what someone else is saying, you are telling them (and yourself) alot about how much you value them. When you are not paying attention to them, you are being selfish.
[Defining Selfish: Concerned chiefly or only with yourself and your advantage to the exclusion of others]
Personally, it makes my day when someone shows me they are interested in what I am saying, and I always feel loved and valued by that person. Show someone you care!!!
2. By being a good listener, you will learn a lot.
If you are always the one doing the talking, you will always be limited by what you already know. Think about how much you can learn from other people if you listen to what they say! I know people who are wonderful seamstresses, people who excel in politics and government, people who know a lot about God and theology, people who are excellent cooks.... I could learn so much from these people!
3. The Bible repeatedly emphasizes the fact that a wise person listens to others.
"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..." James 1:19"Let the wise listen and add to their learning,"The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice." Proverbs 12:15
and let the discerning get guidance..." Proverbs 1:5
"Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:4
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." Proverbs 18:2
How To Be A Good Listener 101
1. Make a conscious effort to pay attention to the person who is talking. I'm not talking about paying attention just enough to know what they're talking about, I'm talking about listening and thinking about what they are saying. Don't DO things while they are talking, either. Texting during a conversation is so, so rude. 'nough said.
2. Don't think about other things while they are talking. This goes with number one. If you are thinking about what they're wearing, what you look like, what the people *over there* are talking about, or even what you're going to say next, you're not being a good listener. You'll miss a lot.
3. Show them you are paying attention. Ask questions. Engage in what they are saying. Nod and audibly encourage them to show them you are listening while they are talking. A simple "Mmhm", "I see" or "Really?" is good.
4. Look at the person who is talking to you. It's hard. But I speak from experience when I say that if a person is not looking at you, it really feels like they aren't listening. Of course, you don't want to intimidate the speaker by staring them down, but really, don't let your eyes wander all over the room.
5. Do not automatically assume you are smarter than the other person. Be willing to listen to their point of view!
6. Show the person that you are listening and understand what they are saying by repeating them during different parts of the conversation. For example, if someone is telling you their opinions on fast food restaurants, you can show them you are listening (and clear up any questions you may have) by saying something like, "So you think that Wendy's has better french fries than McDonald's, but McDonald's is a better deal overall?" Don't over do this, though.
7. Don't try and rush the other person when they are talking. Finishing their sentences, interrupting, or changing the subject all show the speaker you will be happiest when they stop talking....which is not nice.
8. Ask Questions. Asking questions is the best way to learn, and it shows you care about the speaker and the conversation. Ask questions which require more than just "yes" or "no" answers.