I think listening comes easier for some of us than it does for others. I’m not naturally a good listener; I’m a talker. But that doesn’t let me off the hook. I still need to be a good listener—and so do you.
James 1:19 says: “My dear brothers (and sisters), take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak . . .” But what is it about listening that makes it so important?
The benefits of listening
Well, for one thing, when we’re good listeners, we show compassion and concern for others. We make them feel special. We practice Philippians 2:3-4 which says “. . . in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” It’s a biblical principle to be a good listener.
But like all biblical principles, when we practice good listening, we receive the benefits as well. It’s a win-win idea. For example, the better I listen:
- the less I embarrass myself or put my foot in my mouth.
- the more information I have; and information is power.
- the more I improve my relationships; people like people who listen.
- the fewer problems I have to deal with, because good listening often solves problems before they start.
- the more successful I’ll be in my career, because good listening promotes success.
- the better my decisions will be because they’ll be more informed and thought out.
The barriers to listening
Unfortunately, all too often, we don’t reap those benefits. What keeps us from being good listeners? I often liken the battle to become one, to a tug-of-war between myself and the other person. I know I’m self-centered but good listening requires an absence of self-focus. Listening requires my energy and effort, but that tugs against my thoughtlessness and lack of concentration. Without intentionality, most of us won’t be good listeners.
What’s your tug-of-war when it comes to cultivating good listening skills?
- Are you plagued by a wondering mind?
- Are you “secretly” impatient, just waiting for your turn to talk?
- Is your tendency to interrupt?
- Do you complete the sentences of the person you’re conversing with—as if you already know what they’re going to say?
- Do you listen only because you want to find fault and then launch in to your “side” of an issue or topic?
- Do you feel you have to set someone “right” when you believe what they say is “wrong?”
- Are you a defensive listener, who takes everything personally?
- Do you discount people before they’ve even opened their mouths because of past history, a perceived stereotype or prejudice?
- Are you a selective listener, only paying attention to what interests you?
Proverbs 1:5 says, “. . . let the wise listen and add to their understanding.” A wise person is a good listener.
I want to encourage you to identify just one area where you know you need to improve your listening skills. Which one of the questions above did you identify most closely with? Which one gave you the most pause? I’ll confess that my own struggle is the very first one! Whichever one is yours, I’d encourage you to start praying about it. Pray James 1:19 into your life daily: “Lord, help me today to be quick to listen.” And then specifically pray about your worst listening habit so that you will invoke the power of the Holy Spirit to enable you to overcome that barrier.
~Mary Lowman, radio host of The Christian Working Woman
Mary strongly believes that God uses unqualified and unworthy people who are just willing to obey. He wants to use those who are willing to stick their necks out and go to some place that may not be comfortable but simply follow his leading. If God gives you a passion, don’t underestimate what God can do for you and through you!