The word "listen" is mentioned in the Bible over 400 times! I guess that means it's important to God. Listening is not one of my natural strengths but it's something I've really worked on because it's important to me, too.
Listening is about more than hearing someone's words. Listening is about hearing someone's heart by listening with mine.
I think I'm a little A.D.D.. My thoughts go a million miles an hour in a thousand directions, and I can get easily distracted. It's not so much that I can't focus, but that my brain tends to focus on more than one thing at a time. My husband can't understand how I can be on the phone talking to a friend and also hear every word he just said to one of our kids, and repeat both conversations.
When I am listening with my heart, it's different. I am fully engaged. I am leaning in, and I am giving someone my full attention. Here are a few things I have learned about listening that have helped me become a better listener.
Minimize distractions: Turning off cell phones, computers and televisions helps us give our full attention, or talking in a place where distractions are less likely is even better.
Use encouraging body language: Nodding your head tells someone you hear what they are saying and encourages them to continue. Using postures, positions and movements similar to the person talking helps them relax and open up.
Put yourself in their shoes: Active listening is not about inward thinking. We can avoid thinking about how what they are saying impacts us personally by looking at problems from the other person's perspective, actively trying to see his or her point of view.
Avoid Interrupting: One of the biggest challenges to listening is impulse thoughts that become impulse interruptions. Write down thoughts and wait for the other person to talk at their own pace. Although sharing a common experience can be helpful, it also takes the focus off of them. Only share personal experiences briefly to empathize but then turn the focus back to them.
Repeat and encourage: Repeat some things they say and encourage them with positive feedback. For example, you might say: "You didn’t feel like that was fair, and I can see why." Make eye contact from time to time. It's not good to stare, but it is good to show warmth and interest in what they are saying.
Summarize: During an in-depth conversation, it’s good to summarize what someone is saying and say it back in your own words. This assures them you have truly been listening. It also gives them a chance to correct miscommunications or wrong assumptions.
Ask Questions: Meaningful questions help a person reach their own conclusions. Towards the end of the conversation it's good to transition to guiding questions. For example: "I understand why you didn't feel like it was fair, but help me understand why you felt like you couldn’t say anything about it to me/them sooner.” Wording questions this way also helps someone move from an emotional response to a more constructive response.
One of the most important aspects of any relationship is communication, and listening is key. By listening with your heart, you will strengthen and build your most important relationships.In my devotion "The Gift of Listening" featured on the P31 website and Crosswalk today, I encouraged readers to make a list of people they want to really listen to today. Who would be on your list? Here are some very practical things I do to give the gift of listening to my family each day:
- Turn off my cell phone in the evenings
- Limit email checking when they are home
- Delay answering the phone during dinner and family time
- Turn away from my desk at work when someone comes to talk with me
How does it make you feel when someone really listens to you? Did you know that when you listen to someone, you are telling them how important they are to you? Just ask them and you'll see. That is what helped me make this a high priority in my life.
How does it make you feel to know that God is always listening and giving you His full attention because you are important to Him and the words you speak go straight to His heart?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Just click on the word "comments" below and let's talk. I'll be giving away a copy of my 2-part DVD teaching entitled Living and Leaving a Legacy from a drawing of those who participate in today's blog conversation, so be sure to leave your email or check back on Thursday.
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And the winner is... "Anonymous" who posted at 8:50am sharing how she could relate, stating "my 6 year old, is often saying 'Mom - you are always on the computer'". Random Integer.com, with the help of the Holy Spirit, decided you would win my 2-part DVD teaching entitled Living and Leaving a Legacy . If that's you, please email your name and mailing address to email@example.com by Monday. ~Thanks and congrats!