Why should I listen? Nobody’s doing it. Whether it’s Twitter or politicians on the evening news, the message is clear: getting your opinion out there is what matters.
Talk over people. Slap a label on them. Shut them down however you can, and make your voice heard!
Listening – really listening without waiting to jump in with a comment – is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It’s so rare that when it actually happens, it’s shocking.
Want to love well? Learn to listen well.
You can’t really listen to someone without practicing mindfulness. You might hear them, but that’s not the same as listening.
Hearing is just catching noise. Listening reveals the substance — the meaning — the soul behind the words.
Mindfulness is the mental exercise of fine tuning your sensory awareness. To listen mindfully, you must focus your attention entirely on the person speaking. This works best if they’re actually in the room with you, but it should also happen to some degree over Zoom or social media.
Here’s a tip for mindful listening: Pay attention to what’s being said right now. Be fully present without imagining what they might say next, or what you’d like to say.
WHY SHOULD I LISTEN?
Because true listening is a profound act of love!
Don’t we all want to be heard?
To be known?
To be understood?
By listening without an agenda, you assign worth and dignity to the person speaking.
And, true to all acts of love, it is hard to do.
HOW SHOULD I LISTEN?
1. The Right Heart
How do you see the person speaking?
There’s only one perfect way to see them — the way God does. Offer up a quick silent prayer as the conversation begins. God will help keep your heart in the right place. Ask Him to give you spiritual awareness and supernatural love for this person.
And, when your mind wanders during conversation, simply redirect drifting thoughts back to the object of your focus — the human being across the table.
2. Compassion and Integrity
Resist the temptation to judge your friend.
I am in no way suggesting you discard your values. This is a very important aspect of Christian mindfulness that needs to be emphasized.
Truth without love is brutality. But, love without truth is heresy — and enabling.
Jesus makes no excuses for truth — good and evil are real and they aren’t relative.
Whatever your spiritual beliefs may be, no integrity is lost by first listening to your friend — objectively, compassionately.
Empathy, not judgment, is at the heart of mindful listening. Consider the following:
- Try to understand where the speaker is coming from.
- Avoid the impulse to mentally sift what you hear into categories such as: ‘I agree’ or ‘I don’t agree’. You aren’t sorting the person by political party, spiritual direction, or righteousness.
- Allow your brain to be moved by compassion. Listen to the person behind the words. Hear their heart. This doesn’t mean abandoning your beliefs and accepting everything spoken as good and true. It means embracing your friend’s worth and validating their deep desire to be heard and understood.
AVOID THESE COMMON LISTENING PROBLEMS
According to Birgit Ohlin writing for Positive Psychology, bad listening can be blamed on one of four mental distractions:
- daydreaming or thinking about something else
- listening with a specific goal or outcome in mind
- rehearsing (planning your response)
- judging the person (as discussed above)
And I’ll add one more:
- placating (immediately agreeing with the other person)
Though silence is often uncomfortable, don’t rush to fill it. You don’t need to respond immediately. Waiting allows both of you time to pause and reflect on what’s been said.
APPLY WHAT YOU KNOW
Now that you know the basics of good listening, you’re ready to rid that next discussion of any distractions.
But as you bring this new awareness to the table, be patient with yourself. If you notice one of these distracting behaviors, gently redirect your thoughts back to the person in front of you, couched in God’s love.
LOVE ASKS GOOD QUESTIONS
I am perpetually amazed at Jesus’ ability to ask simple questions aimed straight for the heart. He was an amazing listener.
You and I, when enabled by the Holy Spirit, have the ability to listen on a similar level. When your thoughts are prompted by love and illuminated by His light, questions often come to mind which can take the conversation deeper.
It’s taken me a long time to learn that answers aren’t always what people need. Sometimes they already know the answer. What they need is the right question. Then God will lead them in the right direction.
There is a time to speak the truth in plain terms, and Jesus did this too. But the softer approach – letting the person explore things themselves by way of a good question – often yields more fruit. A loved heart is a tender heart.
WHY SHOULD I LISTEN? TO SPREAD THE LOVE!
Remember the last time you felt deeply loved? Perhaps someone gave you a gift.
Listening is a gift – an offering of time and presence.
Can you think of anyone in your life who needs this today?
Maybe it’s time for a coffee date.
I’m ready to practice some of these listening tips — with you as my subject! Leave your comments and questions below. I value them and will always respond.
Blessings, Ali 🙂