Listening is an art form. Most, at best, are paint-by-the-number artists.
- Let the other person talk for a moment.
- Catch any phrase or truth they share that you know something about.
- Formulate an “agree” or “disagree,” “right” or “wrong” response.
- Find an open spot and let the other person know your thoughts.
The result? No masterpiece for sure. At best a cheap imitation of what real listening can be.
You’ve experienced real listening from time to time. And when you have you most likely felt loved. Listening is the primary way we can show someone that we love them.
In the Old Testament God was shaping his people by showing them what it meant to be in relationship. In Deuteronomy 6:4-5 we find this famous passage:
The first command in relationship with God is “listen.” We know this command as the shema because that is the Hebrew word for “listen.” It is an imperative and it is imperative that we learn to start there.
The second thing we learn to do in our relationship with God is “love.” But notice that loving follows listening. Could it be that God’s instruction to us on relationship with him can teach us how to have relationships with others? Could it be that if we want to show someone that we love them the best thing we can do is listen to them?
By listening I mean we learn to hear what the other person is saying. Better put, listening happens when we hear the person. Masterful listening has to do with understanding the other person. We jettison our desire to be right or to agree or disagree. We seek to understand where that person is coming from.
How do we do that? Here are a few steps that will help:
- Listen actively. Put your phone away. Focus on the person. Look in their eyes.
- Respond with questions that help you understand what they are communicating.
- Be silent. You don’t have to fill the air with your words. If you allow a pause they may continue to speak.
- Repeat to them, in your words, what you understand them to be saying, thinking, or feeling.
Listen. First to God. Take time today to sit in his presence. Hear his word. In doing so, love him with all your heart, soul and strength.
Then listen to a family member. A friend. A co-worker. They will feel loved. And you can paint a masterpiece.
Question: Think of a time someone really listened to you? How did you feel?