Monday, April 27, 2009

The Art of Listening

Listening, truly listening, is becoming somewhat of a lost art in our fast paced, electronics-filled world. Just yesterday I was in the car with my daughter and while she was talking I found myself contemplating what I was going to accomplish next; when I heard a few key words that snapped me back into the "here and now."

"And then I was sad..." she said.

(Trying to catch up on the missed conversation without her noticing) I said, "Why did that make you sad?

"I don't really know; why do you think it made me sad?" she said.

Busted. I had NO IDEA what she had even been talking about. My response:

"Sweetheart, I am sorry; I got distracted by where we are going and I missed part of your story. Could you start over for me so I can make sure I really understand what you were trying to explain?"

"O.K., ......" and off with the story she went AGAIN; this time you can bet my "listening ears" were open.

Children can be so forgiving. But if I don't learn this myself now, eventually she will just stop talking to me-stop sharing her hurts-if she believes I don't care enough to listen the first time.

Clearly, this applies to our marriages too doesn't it?

My husband's job involves A LOT of acronyms. When he slips into some of the "technical" terms of something he is learning about or a training course he is taking or wanting to do; I have to be on the guard to stay with him; to try to understand what he is talking about and to encourage him to continue to share what he is excited about with me. If he sees me "glaze over;" he stops talking.

Adults are a bit less willing to repeat an entire story that wasn't "interesting enough" the first time around aren't we?

My heart has been prompted to work on this area of listening. To try to put into action some basic principles:

1. To make eye contact (when possible) while speaking/listening to others.

2. To allow the other person to share fully without interruption.

3. To NOT be formulating my own responses in my mind instead of listening to what they are saying.

4. To, in general, slow life down intentionally so I can be able to be more focused on what really matters/who really matters.

5. To take the initiative to draw those I love out further by asking questions about what they are sharing.

God has also been speaking to my heart about my walk with Him. True walking with God takes time. It is not something that can be "multi-tasked" into a busy schedule. Although I can be praying all throughout the day; I also need to be taking time to listen to Him.

Just as God's voice is not always spoken loudly in the fires and winds of life; often our families hearts are not going to open up in the midst of the blowing winds of our daily activities. We need to seek them out and take the time to listen for their "still small voices." We all have things that we will only share when someone is taking the time to be still with us and invite us to open up. Things that we say much quieter than we would share a funny story or something that has upset us.

"The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake.
After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper." I Kings 19:11-12

Grace and peace you to you~



Pam D said...

Busted.. oh yes, I am. In talking with my son, in talking with my husband; my mind wanders, skitters, and sometimes totally leaves the premises. And just as bad, when I'm in my mom's prayer group, as the other ladies are praying, I'm not always in one accord with them; I'm too busy trying to form what I want to say. I'm trying to work on focusing on what the other person is saying, WHOMEVER it may be, and in trusting God to give me the words that I need. Beautiful post, as always, Shanda!

HappyascanB said...

This is so good, Shanda! I'm just like you, always thinking of my response, without really focusing on what's being said. My hubby also works in an environment full of acronyms. I try so hard to keep up, but I often times have to stop him and ask for clarification. I find he doesn't mind as long as he feels like I am listening. Of course, his love language is quality time, so he NEEDS me to sit and talk and listen. Great post!

Belinda said...

I needed to hear this today, again. I have had the same thing on my mind lately, how can some people talk over you or are so interested in what they need to say they didn't here me?....I am going to put this to work. Great post, would you consider a guest post on my blog in the near future I have been wanting to do that for a while now and your perfect.Let me know. Thanks for the inspiration today too.

christy rose said...

It is so sad how many times I have found this very thing happening to me with my children. I get distracted and they know it and therefore, I have found them lacking in their fluency of their communication with me, because they are trying so hard not to lose my attention. They get distracted in what they are trying to say which makes it even harder to pay attention because they say uhm alot and are very slow in telling their story.

Practicing the art of listening can increase the quality of our relationships so much because as we are better listeners, the ones talking are better communicators, free to tell what is on their heart without fear of being left talking with no one to listen.

God has been helping me with this lately as I have found myself in the same boat as you and I am sure so many other busy mothers as well. My heart lifts us all up this morning to ask Him to open our eyes and our ears to the people who are so very important to us and to Him to lead us to continual reminders of His love and guidance through writings like yours today.

Thank You for this wonderful post


Gretchen said...

Are you in my head or what today, Shanda?


But thank you.

Trying to find that happy medium in coaching my kids to share in summary, (not every "and" and "the"), and giving them a forum of listening ears and heart. I actually do better with my hubby than them, but it all needs work in the holy wood shed.

Rachel said...

I can tell you that I often am told "you listen better than most hearing people"... yet I am guilty of the mental wandering in my closest relationships. Guilty of trying to come up with a snappy response instead of really trying to understand why my husband/son/sister/friend feels the way they are describing.

Such a good heart-check... I needed that. Thank you.

Midwest Mommy said...

You make a great point. I am guilty of this too at times.

RosyRose said...

Such a great word! Thank you!
I know the "busted" feeling as well!
I was busted for not treating my daughters gift of dandolions as precious yesterday!
She was very hurt! Oh how important it is to treat those around us with tenderness!

Anonymous said...

Spot on, Shanda. God used this post to spank me good. Today I'm going to be intentional about slowing down and really listening.

Thanks again.

Kathryn said...

Ouch! That smarts. Girl, I have been there. Done that. Was busted, too.

Generally, I have pretty good listening ears, but this is a wonderful reminder to listen even better ... especially to my daughter and to my husband.

Thanks for sharing. The middle schoolers get "busted" badges for all the good things they're caught doing. So glad we don't get "busted" badges for the times we adults really blow it!

Warren Baldwin said...

This is one of the best and most practical comments I've read this week. (I'm reading this article a couple of weeks after it was posted) Listening is so neglected as a part of our conversation and ultimately bonding with other people. We need more teaching on this ... I certainly do! If it is alright with you I may use some of your ideas here in a post on my blog and list your site for the credits. Is that ok with you? I'll wait till I hear back from you. Thanks, WB

Warren Baldwin said...

Thanks for the visit, the nice comment, and the "ok" to use some of your listening stuff. I'll certainly link it back to here. wb