Can You Hear THEM Now???

“God gave you two ears and one mouth… and He had a reason for that.”     My Mom


I must confess… I don’t listen very well sometimes.  I tell you that for several reasons.  You need to know that learning to be good listener is a process, and one that all of us can continue to improve upon, no matter what stage of life or ministry we find ourselves in.  Listening is a skill, and it requires patience and intentional effort to improve this skill.  Primarily though, I share with you that I don’t listen well sometimes because I know that my friends, family members and co-workers will be reading this book!

As I reflect on past conflicts in my own life and ministry, as well as people from all walks of life that I’ve talked to, so many of the problems or difficulties that have arisen were a direct result of poor communication.  More specifically, the poor quality of communication is a result of poor listening by one or more of the individuals involved.

You will be miles ahead, and save yourself many bumps and bruises along the journey by simply accepting the fact that you still have a lot to learn.  And much of what you need to learn can and will come through the people you will be working with and serving among.  And listening to…

Just think about your own life for a minute.  Now, I know I don’t know you, but you’re probably a very interesting person… smart too.  Creativity and enthusiasm ooze from your very being.  You have been trained up, prayed over, and sent out.  You are educated, enlightened and excited.  Feeling prepared for just about anything that might come your way, you issue a bold, spiritual challenge to the problems and chaos of the world around you- “just bring it on!”

Then it happens.  Your first major crisis rears its ugly head.  Amidst the warnings and words of caution from those in the know you dive headlong into the battle.  As quickly as the conflict had risen, it seems to dissipate with equal speed.  With an overwhelming sense of self-satisfaction, you judge that you were able to face this particular creature with what you perceive to have been incredible grace, wisdom and depth.  But just as you are about to give yourself what you think is a well deserved pat on the back, the whole situation blows up in your face.  Confused, and maybe stunned just a little you wonder what to do next.

So how do you get yourself out of a mess like this?  More important, how do you keep yourself out of very many of these kinds of problems to start with?!  If you want the answer to these questions, then listen….  That’s right, listen.  “LISTEN TO WHAT!?!?!”, you scream frantically!  My reply?  Listen to everything!  Listen, listen… oh, and did I mention you need to listen?  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Then why is listening one of the most under used, under developed, under appreciated skills known to mankind?  I promise… If you will learn to listen, and listen well, you will save yourself an immeasurable amount of grief, conflict and crises.

Notice I said “listen well”.  Your body language speaks loads about whether or not you really care about what the other person is saying.  Do the simple things that matter the most when listening.  Look the other person (or people) in the eyes.  Refuse to be distracted by things around you while they are trying to communicate with you.  Nod your head and smile as they speak.  Repeat the things they say back as a question if you’re uncertain about what they have said, or if you need clarification.

One more thing… Do more than wait until they are finished speaking to add your two cents worth; wait until they are through communicating what they wanted to share.  So many people who are poor listeners are not really listening to what the other person has to say.  They are really just waiting for the person talking to take a breath so they can began to share their own ideas, opinions or perspective.  If this describes you, then trust me, it shows when you do it, and no one appreciates it.

As you learn to be a good listener, remember that others really do have a lot to teach you.  Every person that comes into contact with you brings with them their own rich package of life experiences, wisdom and view on the world.  You would be wise to see the people that you encounter not as walls for you to climb over, or obstacles that stand in your way.  Instead, consider them as brick layers on the house of your life.  Each brick is a piece of truth; a nugget of wisdom.  What they bring to your life is diversity, richness and growth.  Hear me when I say, “Listen to them!”

Finally, remember the key to be a great listener.  You must prove to people that you really do care about them just for who they are- you care, and that’s why you’re listening to them.  They cannot feel as if they are just an end to your means.  Think about this situation… Imagine that you are struggling with a problem or crisis, and in seeking some comfort or direction you decide to share your burden with a friend.  During your conversation, your friend seems distracted, and repeatedly looks at his watch, looks past or around you, and repeatedly folds and unfolds his arms.  As you come to the end of the discussion, your hopes are still high for some encouragement or adviceB or maybe just some sympathy.  Instead, this is what you hear… “Boy, I’m really sorry things are going that way… hey, we’re really short on Sunday School workers in the Preschool area- do you think you would like to work with babies?”  HOW WOULD YOU FEEL?  Horrible!?  Used!?  Ignored!?  Discouraged!?  All of the above!?

Make a commitment to yourself to become a better listener.  By the way, it wouldn’t hurt to use those listening skills in your prayer life either.  Most of us have been guilty of bringing our troubles, trials and chaos to God in prayer, and then after we’ve unloaded all of life’s junk onto Him, we walk away with disinterest in what He might want to say back to us… if we’d only listen.  So listen… a friend, a co-worker, a church member, even God might have something to say that you need to hear.


Questions to Discuss with Your Mentor

  1. Do I have any annoying habits that might lead you to believe I’m not listening?
  2. Who is the best listener you know?  What makes them the “best” listener to you?
  3. What is the best advice you’ve ever received?  The worst advice?


Personal Learning Activities

  1. Describe a time I listened and followed someone’s advice & it worked out for the best?
  2. If I were brutally honest with myself, where would I rank myself on a scale between “self-less listener” and “self absorbed jerk”?
  3. When it comes to my listening skills the thing I need to improve the most is…

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