Written by Kgobati Magome
Here is a quick question for you; what is the difference between hearing and active listening?
Hearing is a physiological act where you perceive sound with your ears. It is a simple process which happens automatically. Listening, on the other hand, is a deliberate act which requires all of you.
Have you ever heard someone say, 'I can hear you, but I am not listening' or 'She is such a good listener'? How does one get to be labeled a good listener? How is listening one of the keys to an impactful Christian life? How many signals from friends in need do we miss only to say later that we were not aware they were in need of support in one form or another?
James 1:19b (CSB)
'...Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.'
Sounds simple right? Often, we are slow to listen, quick to speak, and quick to anger. I guess it's safe to say learning to listen will benefit your Christian life.
'He who can no longer listen to his brother will soon be no longer listening to God either; he will be doing nothing but prattle in the presence of God too.'
Here are five ways you can train yourself to become a better listener.
Pay attention to the person speaking.
You need to be fully present so that you can notice all communication from the whole person. Stop typing, put your phone down, and just listen. Listen to their body language, the words that are being said, and what the person's eyes are saying. The eyes of the person will tell you a lot about what is happening within them.
Show that you are listening.
Show the speaker that you are listening and encourage them to continue speaking. You can do this through facial expressions and body language such as nodding your head and leaning towards them. You can also maintain eye contact and give verbal clues such as 'yeah' and 'wow.' This is to let them know you are following them and you are taking in what they are saying.
Acknowledge what is being said and ask for clarification if necessary.
Repeat part of what you are hearing, using the person’s own words in your response. Begin with statements like 'What I hear you say is...' and 'Are you saying that.' This says to the person that you are listening and engaging with them, and that ultimately they matter to you. This helps to remove any barriers between you and the person.
Do not interrupt them while they are talking. Suspend your judgement.
Listening requires that you be silent when the other person is talking. Any time we choose to speak to someone, we are placing a level of trust in them. Therefore, suspending judgement while you listen is a way of honouring that choice. It further enables you to get into the other person’s perspective, so that you can see the world the way they see it.
Keep in mind that listening is a win/win.
The more you listen, the more you will be listened to. You will form deeper and more meaningful relationships and will be more impactful in your Christian life. Listening when other people are speaking has just as many benefits for you as it does the other person.
So, go out there and enjoy the many benefits you will experience when you implement these tips.