Are you talking when you should be listening?

I’m a talker. Ask anyone who has spent any amount of time around me and they will gladly tell story upon story about my inability to just be quiet. I can’t help it. I have words that HAVE TO come out. I’m fairly certain I could spontaneously combust if I don’t.

Worse is when I need to talk in order to “teach” you something because you obviously have been previously misinformed and I see it as a duty of friendship to bring you up to speed.

But, I also learned that I have to listen too in order to be heard.

So often we say we listen but do we really hear? By being “quiet” while the other person is speaking does not mean we are listening.

Words Don’t Mean A Thing

Stop listening with your ears. Use your senses to listen. Look at the other person’s body language. Feel their tone of voice. Listen with your heart and filter it with empathy. Open your mind to absorb and process what they’re really saying.

Everything including their words are signs – clues – to what is going on with that person. And, often the words don’t mean a thing. They are filler to what the person really needs you to hear. The in-between the lines important stuff.

Are they hurting? Confused? Need help but are too prideful to ask? Is there puffed up arrogance shouting so loudly to mask their low self-esteem and value?

Practice Generous Listening

You know I am a proponent of grace – not just in the act of forgiveness itself but rather a lifestyle of love and light. Grace for others includes generously listening to each other. Putting my agenda to the side to truly engage in conversation.

It is very typical of our culture to be partial listeners. It’s like skimming the page of a book – or this blog – for the keywords and sentences in bold. I don’t have time to really dig into this so let me catch keyword phrases so I can lob a phrase back at you. Most of the time we are busy thinking about what it is we want to say next. Our next “I can one up that…” or our topic of choice.

See if we keep the focus on our agenda or topic, then we don’t have to be accountable to help another. It keeps it more simple. “Because really, I can barely deal with my own life do you really expect me to help you deal with yours?”

Listening requires discipline. It has to be practiced and you will have to develop it as a skill to comprehend and retain information. Oh, and you will have to put your agenda aside when someone needs you and put your walls down. It might get intense. It might get messy. But, what if that one day you choose to listen you are the only person who does? You have the privilege and honor of being the ONLY sounding board for that person that can possibly change their life.

Let’s challenge each other to shut up and listen for a change. To go deeper and engaging in real conversations with people. Let’s hear instead of listen. You never know – it could save a life.

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