“…let every man (person) be swift to hear, slow to speak…” –James 1:19
To me the important part of the above verse is, “be swift to hear.” That means be a good listener. It seems that listening is a lost art. Most people would rather be telling their opinions, sharing their stories, or offering their advice than listening. I sometimes, when trying to be in a conversation with someone, come away feeling that I must be boring, since the conversation was one way and I did not have the opportunity to share. When I am with one special friend, I learn all about her children, her grandchildren, her church and her life. I learn a lot, but she learns nothing because she doesn’t ask. Usually you can’t learn and talk at the same time. From those situations and the effect they have on me, I have determined to be a good listener. Often, when people ask me to help with a problem or give advice, I tell them, “I may not have any answers, but I am a good listener.” Sometimes, just having someone to listen is all that is needed. In my opinion, listening is a good ministry. Are you listening?
Looking & Listenin
Listening involves body language, the ears, and the eyes. Have you ever been in conversation with someone and her eyes continually looked in other directions? Perhaps she looked at her watch, a text message, scrolled her phone, or looked at other people and their activities, or yawned or took steps as if to leave. (I am sure I have been guilty of some, if not all of these.) You soon realized this person was not listening. Several years ago my husband, due to an increasing hearing loss, was fitted with hearing aids. This has been a huge benefit to him (and me, smile). Sometimes though when he is at home or just relaxing, he does not use them. Once, our granddaughter, Savannah, was trying to tell her “Papa” something. It was one of those relaxing times, and he had removed his hearing aids. In frustration, when she realized her Papa was not listening, she said to him, “Put those things in your ears, look at me, and listen.” Now, several years later, Papa says to Savannah, “Take those things (ear buds) out of your ears, look at me, and listen.” Listening also requires looking. Are you listening?
Deaf People Listen With Their Eyes
Since deaf people can’t hear, they rely on a beautiful visual language, American Sign Language. Deaf people listen with their eyes. Naturally, if they are not looking, they are not listening. Usually deaf people first get your attention by tapping on your shoulder, waving their hands, or some other gesture so they can talk to you. When we first began in our deaf ministry, our daughter, Karla, was only four years old. Since we were ministering to Deaf people on a daily basis, she had opportunity to learn a lot about their culture and their language. She learned, “If they are not looking, they are not listening.” A young deaf friend, Jimmy, visited our home often. He loved to tease Karla. She learned quickly how to stop his teasing. When she had had enough, she would tightly close her eyes. She was saying to him, “I’m not looking, so I’m not listening.” Jimmy soon learned by this action to back off and not tease so much. It is obvious that when a deaf person is not looking, he is not listening. Are you listening?
Learning to Listen
Listening can be difficult for some. Have you noticed that many like to be around a person who is willing to listen? Also, it seems some will avoid the person who continually talks. We all are guilty sometimes of appearing to be listening, but our minds are on something else. (By the way, Deaf people quickly pick up on that.) Then there are the times we begin to tell something, and the person to whom we are talking interrupts with his similar story. We never get to finish. Or maybe you are the person who interrupts a story to tell yours. We all know someone who has already experienced, or has a friend who has experienced, what we are experiencing, and has advice. There is also the person who thinks his time is more important than yours and begins walking away right in the middle of the conversation. Maybe he thinks his story is bigger and better than yours. Probably all of us must admit that we need to become better listeners. Good listeners seem to have more friends and have more knowledge. (You can’t learn if you are always talking.) Are you listening?
How to Become a Better Listener
- Keep good eye contact.
- Concentrate on what is being said.
- Listen without judging.
- Be quiet and nod, showing that you are listening.
- Save your similar story for another time.
- Don’t give advice unless asked.
- Seek to be sympathetic, encouraging, and interested.
We can make a difference in the lives of others just by being good listeners. “Let every man (person) be swift (ready) to hear…” (James 1:19). Are you listening?
Learn to Listen
“When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked. When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are ignoring my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. So please listen and just hear me. And if you want to talk, wait a minute for your turn; and I will listen to you.” – Unknown
Are you listening?
This is written because I care…Carlene