Listening – a Lost Art

If you want to connect with people and grow heathy and beneficial relationship you need to learn how to listen. Listening opens the best door for you to connect with people. Listening with your head and your heart. 

There is the story about the tennis pro who was giving a lesson to a new student. After watching the student take several swings at the tennis ball, the instructor began to suggest ways the man might improve his stroke. But every time the instructor made a suggestion, the student interrupted with his own diagnosis of the problem and how he might fix it.

After being interrupted yet again, the pro simply nodded in agreement and let the player continue on his own. 

When the lesson was over, a woman – who observed the lesson, was familiar with the pro, and had seen the whole thing – asked, “Why did you go along with that arrogant man’s stupid suggestions?”

The old pro smiled and answered, “I learned a long time ago that it’s a sheer waste of time to try and sell answers to a person who only wants to buy echoes.”

If you never listen, before long the people around you will stop talking to you, and you will lose the benefit of their input. If you are a leader in the church and you don’t listen well, you will become isolated and eventually no longer be leading anyone. If you do listen, not only will they tell you things you need to know but they will also connect with you because they see that you care and that you value what they have to say. You will build great relationships and connections.

So, how do you become a good listener?

1> Remind yourself daily to listen well.

Here’s a thought. Those that think they listen well usually don’t! So, remind yourself to listen. We all spend a great deal of time on a daily basis meeting with people – formally and informally. You need to decide that every time you meet with someone – and I mean every time – have a way to remind yourself to listen more and talk less. A past mentor of mine always carried a legal pad with him to take notes. He would open his note pad just as he was sitting down with the person and would write a large “L” on the top of the page. That “L” stood for listen. It was his reminder to shut up and listen.

2> Stop interrupting others when they are talking.

Most people are so focused on what they want to say or share that they simply ignore what the other person is saying, interrupting them often in mid-sentence. They simply take over and talk over the other person until the original person stops talking. This also happens when they want to respond to what is being said even before hearing all that is being said. And, sometimes happens because you think you know what others were going to say and so you jump right in. No matter how you slice it – it is rude and you appear very arrogant. You leave the impression that what you want to say is more important than what they are saying.

3> Start asking questions.

One of the ways to stop interrupting is to engage with what the other person is saying by asking them questions. Asking questions is the best way to encourage another person to talk. And, when you are asking questions you must stop talking to hear the answers. Then dialogue and good communications begins. You will discover, as strange as it may seem, that you ears never get you into trouble.

4> Invite others to hold you accountable in the area of listening well.

Ask people who are close to you to let you know any time that you are not “really” listening to them. There is nothing like accountability to keep you honest and help you to grow. And, whenever someone calls you out for not really listening with your whole being, apologize, close your mouth, and listen. 

If you want to be a good friend, marriage partner, business person, Christian leader – become a better listener. Invite others to hold you accountable. If you have the courage, meet with your team members, colleagues, friends, and family, and ask them how good a listener you are on a scale of one to ten. And, listen carefully to their response. Then make some changes. Then you will become a great listener!