Wednesday, February 10, 2010

truly listening

I have been thinking a lot lately about these conversations you have with people that are important, but where you leave them more frustrated than you were before the conversation began. Why does this happen? What is going on in these conversations?

The more I have thought about this, the more I have realized that it is because we do not know how to really listen to one another. We go into conversations having already decided that we are right and all we have to do is convince the other person that we are right and all will be good, and we do this all without actually listening to and seeking to understand what the other person is trying to say. We do not listen to them.

The truth is, we may actually be right and the other person may actually be wrong, but we go about conversations the wrong way when we just try to make the other person see things our way. Even if they are wrong about something, people will take that information a lot better if we actually take the time to listen to what they think, why they think it and try to understand it from their perspective - if we validate that they have a different opinion than we do on the topic at hand.

Validating their opinion does not mean we have to agree that they are right. It means that take the time to really listen to what they are saying and understand what they are saying. A book I am currently reading puts it this way: "Remember this rule: You have not understood someone when you understand them. You have understood them only when they understand that you understand." (The Secret Things of God by Dr. Henry Cloud). In the chapter of the book this is from he also emphasizes that doing this does not mean you are saying that the other person is right, just that you are valuing them as a person by understanding where they are coming from.

When I realized that many of these frustrating conversations come from failing to really listen to each other, I started to wonder about why we do not listen. I think we do not really listen because we do not want to take the time really listening takes. To stop and seek to understand what another person is saying requires us to take time out of our schedule to stop and sit and look someone in the eye and let them talk without planning our next words as they talk. This goes against how our world says we should live life. And so, we do not really listen to one another, because we do not want to take the time to do so.

But, I wonder what would happen if we did stop and take the time to really listen to one another? Would the conversations that we leave now more frustrated than when we began them cease to exist, or at least happen less often? I think so, because we would feel that the other person valued us enough to listen, even if they disagreed with what we had to say.

This has presented a challenge for me, and I wonder if it is a challenge anyone else wants to take up. For the next week, I want to be intentional about listening to what another person has to say in a conversation and try to understand their point of view before I express mine. Even if I disagree with the person, I want to take the time to listen and understand them. And, I want to see if this really does make a difference in my conversations with people, and how we both feel at the end of them. Anybody else want to join me in this?

1 comment:

  1. Just wanted to stop and say hi. I saw your post on LPM discussion group. Just wanted to encourage you...was single for a long time. I'm 36 and just getting married and can relate to alot of what you said. Just wanted you to know I'll be thinking of you and praying for you during this. It's not easy, for sure. But I know God has you on this journey for a reason. Be encouraged. :)