By Pastor Royston Smith
Good listeners aren’t born, they’re bred! With the constant hum of daily living, going on in the background, listening has become a dying art form. To improve people’s lives, we must learn to truly listen. Good listening skills help to build quality relationships with others. The best listeners make it easy for others to speak. How well you listen has a major impact on how likeable you appear to be. The Wise King Solomon wrote, Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
God made no mistake when he created us with two ears and one mouth. It has been said, “listen thrice, think twice, speak once” Anon. Listening is central to our well-being. Here are a few suggestions to improve your listening.
Step 1. Be attentive and relaxed: Pay attention to the speaker and ensure you can ignore all the noises and distractions. Nodding sends the message that you are interested in what the speaker has to say. Request clarification as appropriate.
Step 2. Empathize: A skilful listener is able to identify the feelings of the speaker even while concentrating on the facts. Observe the inflections in the speaker’s voice and be empathetic.
Step 3. Avoid interrupting and imposing your solutions: Often when people speak about an issue, they are not interested in a ‘quick fix’. They just want to vent. Resist the urge to ‘pull out a plaster’, offer no solutions– just listen. Don’t just wait for your turn to speak, take the time to actively listen. “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey.
Step 4. Be open-minded: Resist the temptation to judge. Avoid drawing premature conclusions or assumptions about what is being said. Carefully phrase your questions in order to achieve clarity. A non-judgemental attitude is integral to building trust.
Step 5. Acknowledge and validate the speaker: Do not dismiss the person’s perceptions or the way they are feeling. Show that you understand their point of view by offering your validation. Reflect on what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I’m hearing is…,” and “Sounds like you are saying…,”
As we enter 2021, so will COVID-19, accompanied by the noise of fear, anxiety and uncertainty. The voices and the needs of many will be muted and unattended. Amid the ‘noise’, Jesus provides himself as the only genuine alternative. As a consummate listener he invites us to let him into our personal space. He wants to acknowledge, validate and support our worries. John the Revelator wrote, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hears my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” Jesus wants to be our friend, provider and counsellor. If you let him in, he can tone down the noises and point to your path of peace and fulfilment.
Dear God, help me to tune out the noise of life and to truly listen to you.