On Careful Listening

Greetings in Christ,


“Those who have ears, let them hear.”  

We often read in the Gospels this phrase on the lips of Jesus as he teaching, especially as he is using a parable to teach about the Kingdom of God. We hear people all the time, but to really listen to what they are saying is not always done. Far too often our listening is colored by what we think of the person, formulating our reply to what they are saying, or simple indifference.  The result we do not hear what they are trying to tell us. The vast majority of conflicts between people grow out of failure to hear what the other is trying to tell us.

Careful listening is not easy work. I first must set aside my own thoughts about the person or situation and pay careful attention to what they are communicating. I need to pay attention not only to the words they are using, but to feelings behind those words, their body language, and facial expressions. All those things are communication. We do this naturally because we have learned that those extra signals are important. Careful listening is giving our full attention to all these signals. In simple terms, paying attention to person as a person trying to say something important to them.

The next step is to seek clarity. If you don’t understand what a person has just said, you ask in a gentle manner for them to explain or to help you understand what they just said. By asking you are telling the person you are really listening and you gain a better understanding of what they are saying. The more clearly we understand what a person is saying the more willing they will be to be open in their sharing.

It is also important to remember that we often cannot solve other people’s problems. We can by listening to them help them sort through the challenges facing them, allowing them to discover their own solutions. Also, careful listening can give a person the opportunity they need to just ‘get it off their chest’. We all need to be heard even if there is no simple solution to the problem.

There is much more to careful listening than can be shared in an email. However, listening carefully to others is something we all can do better and will provide benefits and blessings for all.