The Lost Art of Listening
Did you know that every day 500 million thoughts or reactions are tweeted on Twitter? If you do the math and I know you most likely aren’t, that’s over 200 billion tweets a year. The platforms and ease social media provide us to interact with one another is incredible. No guidelines, just common decency, well, scratch that. You now have the power to say whatever you want, whenever you want. However, there’s a problem we invite to creep into our lives with this type of freedom. No one listens anymore. A pastor I follow on Twitter recently said,
One of my favorite character traits is when a person seems content right where they are. They don’t look over your head as you talk, constantly check the time, or have anything “better” to do than what they’re doing at the moment. Oh, how rare this is. And how I long to be this.”
I would agree with him.
Not only is it rare to find someone who can be present and engaged in conversation, but to find a person who truly listens to you takes effort and intentionality. If I were to ask you to think through your conversations today, could you say that you were fully present and listening for even one of them?
Talking Before You Speak
Some of us have a bad habit of being involved in a conversation where we’re listening to what the other person is saying, but also formulating what we’re going to say next. While you could call this multi-tasking, others might call it annoying. The Bible doesn’t hold back about this problem but suggests someone who speaks without really listening is a fool (Proverbs 18:13). Just a few verses before that, the author says someone who only talks to express their opinion is also a fool (Proverbs 18:2).
Part of being a good listener is to actively listen even when we have nothing to say. Typically, we only engage in conversations when we have something to contribute. Do we ever take time to just listen to what’s going on in someone’s life without the expectation of being able to add in our two cents?
Let’s Not Make This Awkward
The art of listening also requires us to be physically present and engaged in the conversation. Have you ever noticed when some people talk to you they never actually look at you? Depending on the circumstance, I can be guilty of doing this. When someone is telling me a story, I might be checking email on my phone or watching something else going on in the room.
You might think going out of your way to look directly at someone while they’re talking to you can get awkward! Did you know that eye contact can actually make your words more meaningful and memorable? In a joint study between the University of Wolverhampton and the University of Stirling, participants were put on a video call with another person. What the researchers found was that when eye contact was made it added up to a significant increase in what participants remembered about the conversation later on. There’s something about the way we communicate through posture, facial expressions and even hand gestures that dramatically affects how we hear someone’s words.
Are you present and engaged when you talk to other people? Have you ever paid attention to see if your first reaction is to cut someone off to prove your point? Do you refuse to look at someone when they speak to you?
It might be you have lost the art of listening.