I have 4 kids ranging in ages from 5-13. I promise you there is never a dull moment in our home. They have learned over time to make each other mad by doing something that their other sibling does not like. We call it “pushing their buttons.”
They each have their own list of things they do to push the buttons of the others. There is one thing that they have in common. When they don’t want to listen to what the other one is saying, they just stick their fingers in their ears. I am sure you have seen this before. It is their way of saying, “You are not worth being listened to.”
What would happen if we did that as adults? It would be unthinkable. Worse than a goat on the communion table. We would never do it even if we did not want to hear what the other person had to say.
But sometime we unknowingly tell people others they are not worthy to be listed to through our actions.
Though we may be standing in front of another person we may be thinking about what we need to do later on that day instead of listening. Other times we decide how we are going to respond before we hear all they have to say. Sometimes we judge the person and what they are saying well before they are finished speaking.
This is what happens when we are not fully present in the conversation.
Why should we listen?
Listening opens up new worlds for us. When we listen we discover new things. It’s hard to learn when we are thinking about something else. We can find out what the problem really is and not just what we thought it was. We become better fathers, mothers, friends and employees. We don’t have to assume anymore. Experience has taught us the majority of the time our assumptions were wrong anyway.
How can we all be better listeners?
Be fully present in the conversation. Though your body may be there, make sure your mind is also. An old Chinese proverb says, “Be where you are and not where you are not.” Refuse to think about other things while the other person is talking. Don’t plan what you will do next, what you will say next or ponder what happened yesterday. Be fully present.
There are many thing in life worth hearing but we can’t hear if we are not fully present.
Next time you are in a difficult conversation try these things…
Listen to WHAT they are saying. Listen to every word. When she says, “I hate it when you don’t come home for dinner” and continues to tell you other things that are bothersome to her…listen to all of it. You will gain more insight in those couple of minutes than in a month of casual conversation.
Listen to HOW they are saying it. Listening to WHAT they say is important but HOW they say it often means more than WHAT was actually said. When someone is in a extremely high or low emotional state you find out very quickly what is important to them.
Listen without judgment. Refuse to judge the person and place them in a category. “Well she is always that way.” “He is just moody and irritable.” When our eyes see people as republican or democrat, liberal or conservative, friend or foe, those judgments affect our ability to hear them for who they are and what they want to say to us.
Listen without attempting to “fix it.” Listening to what is being said is different from fixing what was wrong. There will be a time when you need to respond to what was said. This might mean apologizing and making something right. None of those responses can happen until you listen. Listen FULLY before you RESPOND.
Our lives are filled with people who need to be heard. We need to hear our kids, our spouse, our boss, our friends and customers. But thats not all. We need to hear our critics, our foes, and our enemies.
The holiday season can be a time of rush, rush, rush. We often move from place to place and task to task without every stopping to listen.
Take the time to listen. They needed to say it and we needed to hear it.