I just returned from an awesome weekend getaway with my sisters. We rented a house on the Mississippi, in Wisconsin. The fall colors were still hanging on, I got to sit and chat with my sisters, chocolate was consumed – it was great!
On a walk with one of my sisters, we got to talking about how people are. Both of us have had experience talking with people who obviously weren’t listening. She related about talking with her neighbor over the hedges. She said while she was in the middle of speaking, the neighbor suddenly pointed to another house and made a comment about the décor. As she finished telling me this, my sister spread her hands and wondered, “Did she actually hear anything I had to say? Did she care?”
I could have told several stories of my own, of exactly the same thing.
What is it with people? I understand interruptions – you’re listening, and suddenly something happens and grabs your attention away from the conversation and you blurt something out. Stuff like that happens.
But (too) often, you can tell from the other person’s eyes and body language that they just want to vent or just keep the topic revolving around themselves – or whatever. It’s more important for them to either say what they want to say, or think about what they’re going to say next. They don’t listen to or hear what you’re saying. They mow right over whatever you might want to talk about. They don’t care; it’s too all about them. All the time.
The world needs more listeners. Maybe the world needs more lessons on listening.
Listening involves your whole body. It takes time and energy. Lots of energy. Listening is hard work. It takes eye contact, attention, memory, linking new information to old information, head nodding, facial expressions, asking pertinent questions, appropriate (short) responses, encouraging body language, routing conversations back to the speaker’s topic, following and mirroring the speaker’s tone and mood, eyes that invite and accept and love, and a focus on the speaker (not on yourself).
We need to practice such techniques. If needed, practice in a mirror. Look at your facial expressions. As you practice, muse about people you know and what they like to talk about. Turn conversations to others. It’s okay to interject some of your own experiences and feelings, but always bring it back to the speaker (hint: you’re not the speaker – you’re the listener).
Listening takes caring. Caring takes love. If you don’t have love, talk to Jesus about it. He’s a really good listener.