By Kelly Carr
How many times a day do you say something to that effect? Or how many times a day does someone say that to you?
A Skill We Need
Around 45 percent of our total communication time is listening—more than speaking, reading, or writing—so it should be a skill that we hone. You learned to read and write in school and likely had to work on public speaking skills—yet did you have to take a listening course?
I actually did take a class in college on the topic of listening. It was one of the options in the communications program I was in, and it seemed like it would be interesting. It was!
One of the tasks we had to do was a daily listening journal—it helped me evaluate my best listening times and when I was the weakest. My husband was not as pleased by this class—because I began critiquing how well he listened to me!
Worth the Effort
There are hurdles to overcome to be good listeners. We might be tempted to look at our phones or other technology rather than giving our undivided attention to a person speaking. Even our own brains work against us. Owen Hargie, in his book, Skilled Interpersonal Interaction: Research, Theory, and Practice, explained that our brains can process between 400 and 800 words per minute. However, most people speak at a rate of 125 to 175 words per minute. That means that while people are talking, our minds can wander.
But making eye contact with the person and offering good nonverbal responses (nodding, smiling, etc.) keep us focused. Also repeating and rephrasing what a person says can keep our brains engaged.
All of this gives evidence that listening takes work. But it is worth putting in the effort. You can offer empathy and develop deeper relationships with others in your life just by listening.
Give a Gift
Maybe you’re wondering if listening has some sort of spiritual value. Let me ask: when you have something important to say, when you need to get something off your chest, when you need advice, when you have great news to share—how good does it feel when someone is really listening to you? When you are truly heard, you feel validated and valued. When you listen, you offer those gifts to others.
Listening to others helps you understand them better. You will never fully grasp what it is like inside another person’s mind and heart, but the gift of listening can offer a glimpse. How can you reach out to others unless you know their needs? The way you’ll find out is by asking and listening.
When you are at a restaurant, bank, or store—the people helping you have stories. What’s going on in their lives? Take time to ask and listen to the responses. Your care may give them needed encouragement.
What about your coworkers or family members? They’ve got things on their minds. Find out more by asking and listening. You will be a vital part of their day by giving your time and your attention.
You can show the love of Christ just by listening. Try ministering with your ears this week.