The Art of Listening
Sunday - October 18th
Scripture to Read Today: Proverbs 18:1-24
To answer before listening—that is folly and shame.
Some people talk more than others, but the typical person utters anywhere from 125 to 175 words per minute. Our ears work a little faster than our mouths. The average number of words we can listen to per minute is around 450. Even though your ears can pick up on so many words, your brain doesn't necessarily process all of them. Most people usually only remember about 17 to 25% of the things they hear. Research shows that a man only uses half of his brain to listen while a woman engages both lobes. If you feel like your spouse or significant other is tuning you out, that may be why.
Whenever I tackle the subject of listening, I feel like I need to join a recovery group called non-listeners anonymous. Hi, my name is Shawn, and I like to talk but have a problem with listening. Maybe you can relate and would join that anonymous recovery group with me. After all, Proverbs 18:13 says, "To answer before listening—that is folly and shame." None of us wants to be known for folly and shame!
One of the subtle themes that runs throughout the Book of Proverbs is the art of listening and how powerful it can be in our daily relationships (Proverbs 12:15; 18:13; 19:27; 18:2; 10:19; 19:20; 10:8; 25:12). The Proverbs suggest three steps to healthy listening. First, there is danger in just babbling on and using too many words. It is best to be quiet and use words sparingly. OK, we haven't even gotten to the second stage of listening, and I am stumbling over the first one. To listen and truly hear someone, you have to stop talking. For a talker like me, that is not so easy. But it is crucial!
Once your mouth has been shut, and words are no longer streaming from it, you can move onto the second stage of listening - actively hearing what is being said. To listen actively, you have to think about what the other person is saying. You have to let the speaker know you value their words. They can see it on your face, and through any qualifying questions, you might interject.
After your mouth has stopped talking, you have listened to what the other person is saying; then, you have to act on what they say. Sometimes working on what they are saying is only to hear them, know their story, and have received their words to you. When it comes to advice and instruction, we need to go further. We need to act on it. Do something in response to what has been said and you have heard.
One of the problems in our polarized and divided society is a lack of listening to each other. We are shouting over each other. We are not hearing what anyone else is saying. The lost art of listening needs to be recovered quickly in our nation. We need to hear the other side out. We need to cease being the thought and word police. We need to let people express what they are thinking and feeling without labeling them an abortionist, racist, fascist, or anarchist.
How are you doing when it comes to listening to other people in your life? What would the people you spend time with every day say about your listening skills?
Listening to someone share their thoughts, feelings, and stories communicates to them that you value them - whether you agree with them or not!