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  • Jane Wheeler

Listen Up

God warns us in James 1:19

“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”

Why is listening so hard? I know that this is not a "natural" for me, I have to work at it. Is listening hard because we think we have so much to say? Is it because we think our voice is more important? There are probably endless answers to these questions. But did you know, that your words are not the loudest form of communication?

Body Language is. Listening then, becomes a visual activity not a hearing activity.

What visual images do the following phrases bring to mind:

  • Nail biting

  • Tapping of the toes

  • Tilted head

  • Rubbing of the nose or forehead

  • Arms crossed

  • Eye contact

  • Waving of the arms

I am sure you recognize some of these forms of body language and some are totally self-explanatory. Try to talk openly with someone whose arms are tense and folded across their chest, not a lot of open communication will probably happen here.

Listening has become something fairly obscure in our society and many employers are hosting communication workshops for their employees. Listening is the bread and butter of business, how can you effectively serve your clients if you are not listening for what they need and want.

It is estimated that adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this, an average of 45% is spent listening compared to 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. (Adler, R. et al. 2001).

If better listening skills are so important to a business, just think what better listening skills could do for relationships in general.

Often people talk before they think, getting themselves into word predicaments. It is not a coincidence that the Bible warns us: “Those who guard their mouths and their tongues keep themselves from calamity.” Proverbs 21:23

Mark Twain had it right:

“If we were supposed to talk more than we listen, we would have two tongues and one ear.”

Sometimes we just need to stop talking and listen, both with people and with God. How can we get to know another person or God if we are always talking?

Some tips on listening:

Studies have shown that speaking raises blood pressure, listening brings it down.

Listening is not the same as hearing

Prepare yourself to listen. Relax. Focus on the speaker. Put other things out of mind.

Help the other person to feel free to speak, remember their needs and concerns.

Remove distractions. Focus on what is being said: don’t doodle, shuffle papers, look out the window, stare at your phone, pick your fingernails or your nose. Be present.

Try to understand the other person’s point of view.

A pause, even a long pause, does not necessarily mean that the speaker is finished.

Volume and tone both add to what someone is saying and be careful to watch yours.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the Heart

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