Last Post I gave you two ways to help improve your listening skills. 1) Listen with your eyes 2) Delay judgment. Here are two other suggestions I hope will be of practical help to you.
Avoid Distractions (Matthew 6:25-33)
In these verses Jesus is talking about the everyday things of life that distract us. “What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?”. Add to this, the busyness of life, text messages, email and actual phone calls and there is much to distract us from really listening to others. Oh ya, then there is the fact we can think five times faster than someone can speak, so our mind is prone to wander without even trying.
What are things you can do to help you pay attention and let the other person know you are interested in what they are saying? Look people in the eyes without turning your time into a staring contest. Does your phone distract you? Put it away. Do you have the habit of playing with pens or other items? Put them away. The needs of the other person are more important that anything that might be diverting your attention at that time.
Avoid Easy Answers
The last thing you want when you go to the doctor is for her to listen to you talk about your pain for 5 minutes and then give you a pill and send you on your way. Yet, at times we do this with people who are sharing deep concerns with us. I remember a friend of mine who was going through a divorce and was sharing with me the confusion she was feeling at the time. My quick answer was something I had heard a preacher say on a tape series (yes this was many years ago) I was listening to. “Let peace be your umpire.” I clearly announced with confidence. After I had spoken those words I realized who stupid that advice was. How could peace be her umpire when there was no peace in her life amidst the storm clouds of her divorce? I blew it big time. I realize know that just giving an easy answer is really showing a lack of respect for the depth of the struggle of the person who is pouring their life out to you.
The next time you find yourself sitting across from a friend or even a stranger who is beginning to open up to you. Do what you can to minimize distractions and don’t over simplify the problem by giving an easy, pat answer.
“The ability to listen seems rarer than almost any other good trait.” (Dale Carnegie)
This material is adapted from training entitled “Becoming A Great Listener” from the people at www.smallgroups.com.