Last week, I told you that I have opinions … lots of them.
I’m also a Sanguine talker.
Combine those facts you might assume that it’s taken me a long time and more than one bloody tongue to learn that I don’t need to share my views on everything with everyone. And you’d be right!
Something I’ve learned from my bloody tongue experiences is that as much as I feel the need to be heard and want to change the opinions of the people around me … my relationships benefit and I’ve actually learned a thing or two when I’ve shut up and listened!
At a time when more of us are talking than listening, I thought it might be helpful for me to honestly share my journey … because in all honesty, I didn’t get here easily!
6 Ways to be a Better Listener
♥ Listen without Assumptions
It’s so easy to assume that we know how someone thinks based on their skin color, gender, religion, or where they live. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Each person is uniquely and wonderfully made by God.
You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
Each person is dearly loved by God and precious to Him.
You are a child of God, you are wonderfully made, dearly loved, and precious in His sight. Before God made you, He knew You. There is no one else like you. ~Unknown (based on Psalm 139 and Col. 3:12)
It takes time to get to know people individually but it’s important … really important.
♥ Listen without Judgment
Everyone you meet has a story and every story has its painful broken chapters.
I’ll admit, I’ve had more times than I care to admit when I was quick to judge people whose lives were a mess. Back when I was doing everything I could to be a “good girl” and “do life RIGHT,” I was quick to assume that life’s messes were caused by personal bad choices. Although that’s true sometimes … it’s not true always!
Boy, was I humbled when my mess was exposed to public view and I felt the scrutinizing judgment of others.
God allowed me to learn a huge lesson the hard way…
“You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” Luke 6:36–37
You and I can give the gift of listening with kindness and compassion. We can make it safe for people to share their stories of brokenness by showing them the love of Jesus.
♥ Listen to Understand
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. The collective monologue is everyone is talking and no one is listening.” ~ Stephen Covey
Can you imagine the difference we could make if we really listened and asked questions to understand before we replied to people?
Everyone looks at life through a lens of their own personal perspective … a lens that takes years to shape and polish. They have well-developed long-standing reasons for their beliefs.
I want to do a better job of listening to understand by asking “why” and “please help me understand” questions. I want to keep conversations going and learn the reasons behind the beliefs and opinions people hold.
♥ Listen to Learn
I still have so very much to learn. In fact, the longer I live and the more I learn … the more I realize just how little KNOW.
Sure my wise mentors and teachers have taught me tons but I’ve also learned a lot by listening to hurting friends and the heartfelt stories of complete strangers.
God is at work in lives, friends! When you and I listen to each other with a desire to learn, we benefit from His work in every life.
Tell your story and encourage the people you meet to tell you theirs!
Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. Proverbs 22:17
♥ Listen Respectfully
Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interest but take an interest in others, too. Philippians 2:3–4
Whew, we could go a long way in the respect department at the moment, couldn’t we?
Truthfully, those other people really need to do a better job of being respectful! (Sense my sarcasm?)
If you’re like me, it’s easy to point fingers and blame those who disagree with us. But aren’t we really just trying to get that speck out of the other guy’s eye before getting the log out of my own.
“How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye?” Matthew 7:4
Respect begins with me and it starts at home. Help us, Lord!
♥ Listen Intentionally
I don’t know whether I have ADD or I’m just easily distracted, but it’s hard for me to sit in a restaurant and not have my eyes dart around the room like I’m watching bumble bees in a garden.
I love people watching. But because I want to listen intentionally to the people I’m with … I sit with my back to the activity so I can focus on the people with me.
I also sit near the front in church or any place I want to avoid distractions.
If you and I want to listen intentionally we need to avoid distractions, put down our devices, and look at each other! Then listen without interrupting. (Yeah, that one’s hard for me too.)
I want to be a better listener!
Friends, there are so many emotional subjects on the table right now. Feelings are frayed. And sides have been taken.
But I believe you and I can make a difference. Jesus showed us a better way.
He listened. Really listened to people.
At the end of the day, which will matter more…
That people know our opinions on the most recent political conversation or social issue or that they feel the love and compassion of Christ?
Will you and I ever do it perfectly this side of heaven?
No, probably not.
But I’m not willing to quit trying to be a better listener.
And believe me, I’m a work in progress. I’m still just trying…
The other day, we had a tech repairman visit because we were having problems with our cable box. As he asked me to try a variety of solutions, all of which I’d done earlier, my replies became more agitated and impatient.
Then I had one of those Holy Spirit moments of conviction. I had not listened well nor had I been respectful or compassionate.
But this time…
I caught myself and apologized. We ended up having a good conversation.
Now I need to work on my responses to the poor people who happen to pick up my phone call at the end of a long phone tree. Yep, like you, I’m still a work in progress.
And the truth is we’re all agitated, some say they’re even frightened. Everyone believes they know the truth and want to be heard.
This may just be the perfect time for you and me to make a difference by being a better listener even when we just want to be heard.
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