100 Ways the Bible Can Change Your Life: #41 Listen Hard
Christopher D. Hudson
The best gift you can give anyone is a listening ear. To listen to someone is to say, “You are important to me. I want to learn more about what you think and feel.” That’s why the apostle James recommended it so highly: “My dear friends, you should be quick to listen and slow to speak or to get angry” (James 1:19).
If you make a resolution to become a better listener, you’ll quickly discover three important truths.
1. Listening can be difficult. Pausing long enough for a person to finish a sentence is not the same as listening. Hearing what someone says is not the same as listening. Listening is an art that requires a certain set of skills.
Listening requires concentration. When you listen to someone, you pick up not only their words but also the emotions behind them. You register not only what’s being said but also what’s not being said.
Listening almost always produces questions. When you’re fully engaged in what someone is saying, you’ll wonder about certain things. At the proper time, you’ll ask leading questions to encourage the person to open up more, or you’ll ask follow-up questions to help you understand better.
Listening takes practice. Once you get the skills down, though, people will seek you out. Everyone loves a good listener.
2. Listening is a great way to learn. Everyone you know—and everyone you meet—has knowledge and experience that you don’t have. When you open your ears and mind to people, you get to share their knowledge and experience.
In order to be a great learner, you have to be a great listener. In order to be a great listener, you have to approach conversations with a humble attitude. You can’t learn from someone until you acknowledge that the person has something to teach you.
3. Listening is a great way to reduce conflict. Note how the apostle James contrasted being quick to listen with being slow to get angry. Usually at the heart of every conflict is someone who wants to be heard. If we oblige the person by listening, we may be able to head off conflict before it arises.
That’s not to say we should always agree (or pretend to agree) with others during a conflict. But we should understand their point of view—and why they hold it—before we disagree with them.