Last week we touched on the topic of intimacy. It was easy to see that those who practiced “in-to-me-see” typically found favor with those whom they listened to. So for all of us who desire favor it is vital that we understand how to listen not only to another’s obvious messages but also to be able to comprehend the heart of the message sender.
We are talking about a facet of communication which can be very complex. On one end of this exchange a person is responsible to send a message verbally or non-verbally in a way that the other person can understand and accept, even though they may not necessarily agree. On the other end, however, the responsibility rests on the one expected to receive the message. For one to successfully catch what is thrown their way requires some specific skills.
Have you ever experienced times when you’ve tried to receive a message when the sender failed to be able to articulate the message? If you lacked wisdom in knowing how to actively listen, and ask some appropriate questions, the exchange most likely turned into a stressful situation. If you are skilled in active listening you most likely were able to navigate through the communication process in a way that you could understand and accept the message.
Obviously the communication process would be easier if both ends would learn and apply some much needed skills. It seems, however, that Biblically the burden is placed on the end responsible for doing the listening. We are commanded in the Word to “Listen” 331 times and then in other verses to “Hear” 347 times. We also read throughout the Word to: “incline your ear”, “give ear”, or “pay attention”. Other scriptures warn us about “how” to hear, or “what” to hear. So can we agree that God considers “listening” to be something we should be exercising?
For many of us skillful “listening” has not been on our list of exercises. The problem is we are too familiar with the communication practices that we have learned growing up. Though our practices can be stressful and chaotic we tend to insanely accept and navigate with whatever means of communication we know. In order to change we must be willing to learn and practice a new and living way. So, just like any other task that is difficult, put the incentives in front of you: FAVOR WITH GOD AND MAN.
Are you ready to do something about the negative results produced from poor communication? Do you have ears to hear about some tips that will improve your “listening” skills? Remember, you are responsible for what you know (don’t just be hearers but doers) so only if you are ready read the following:
* Be intentional, give your full attention to the message.
* Remove any and all distractions:
Turn the phone, TV or computer off.
Send kids to another room.
Clear your head of subjects you wish to talk about.
* Look into the eyes of the one speaking.
*Picture the message in your head. (If somebody is telling you how sad they feel when it rains outside picture the rain coming down and see the sad expression on their face.)
* Nod your head appropriately or say one or two words that acknowledges that you are tracking with the message. (When somebody is telling you how sad they feel when it rains outside you can say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Or “That can be rough during the spring.”)
*Do not interrupt.
Once the message sender is finished, do one of two things:
1. Clarify: Repeat the message in your own words to confirm that you have actually heard the intended message. (So rainy days always make you sad?)
When your clarification response is confirmed it is good to ask some probing questions.(So do rainy days always make you sad? How do you handle that emotional state? Is there anything I can do to help during those times?)
If your clarification response is not confirmed DO NOT SAY: “That is exactly what you said!”
Next week we will address the skill required for sending messages but for now stay focused on what the listener’s responsibilities are.
If you are informed that your clarification response was wrong merely ask to have the message to be sent in another format so that you may be able to comprehend its meaning more accurately.
2. Emotional Intelligence (EQ): an effective method used when on the receiving end of a highly emotional message. It works like this:
Label the emotion. (It sounds like you are sad.)
Empathize (If I had gone through what you are going through I’d probably be sad too.)
Ask how they have handled the situation in the past. (“How do you handle life when you get sad?”)
Suggest a direction. (Have you thought about…?)
Do not “lead” in reverse order. Many people hear a person in distress and just want to help so they prematurely offer suggestions. The problem is that this first response oftentimes back fires because the “sad” person may have already tried the suggestion and for whatever reason it did not work for them. “Hear” them out first by asking appropriate questions then they will be more ready to “hear” you.
Using EQ actually helps the message sender know that you have heard them because their message was really about them being sad. They would also feel heard when they realize that, though you may not necessarily agree with them, you are able to accept and understand their message.
*Respond…interact (After you are certain that you have heard the intended message.) *Do not change the subject prematurely. (When a person is talking about sadness or emotions explore that topic with them for a time before jumping track to another subject.)
When we practice these listening exercises we will get to know the message sender in a more intimate way. When we get intimate with and learn to trust the God as a message sender we will find favor that is not obtained any other way. Likewise, when we get intimate and learn to listen in our other relationships we can also obtain that desired favor. Who do you desire favor with? Learn to listen to them. It is the better way to spend your time and energy!
Learn more about “listening” in my book “Character Blocks”. Order your copy off this website under “Books”.