17 July 2008

I hear you...

...but are you listening?

I seem to be surrounded by people who "hear" me, but never "listen" to me. And YES! THERE IS A DIFFERENCE! I am convinced of this fact. Listening, truly listening to people, is becoming a lost art. Webster's Dictionary defines hearing as "the sense by which sound is perceived" and listening as "to pay attention; to heed." Unless you are deaf, we all can "hear" - we are given the ability to discern sounds and words and translate them into language...but listening...that's something totally different. Listening is something we have to learn how to do...and unfortunately, there aren't a lot of classes out there teaching this skill.

I think the problem with listening is that, when you are truly listening to someone, you have to stop and focus on them - what they are saying (and sometimes what they are not) and often, [let's be honest here], we engage in conversations by just waiting for our turn to say something. How many times have you been in a conversation with someone and they are going on and on about something and after a while, all you hear is "blah blah blah blah blah" and you are just sitting there waiting to jump in with your comment or two cents or change of subject? That's "hearing", not "listening". Listening is truly a self-less activity - you have to suspend your natural tendency to make the conversation about yourself, and truly focus in on what the other person is saying or trying to convey. And that is not always easy - especially if you have had the conversation in question with the person in question before...several times...every day....for the last few years. I mean, really...how many times do you want to hear about a faulty relationship if your advice is going unheeded and no effort is being made to change the circumstances of the relationship? Probably not more than two or three times...but a good listener will sit there and listen to the story again as if it were the first time it were ever told.

I strive daily to be a good listener because it irritates me to no end when people don't listen to me and I have to repeat myself over and over again. But it is hard and few of us do it well. Turning yourself off in order to tune into the needs of someone else - difficult to do because most of us are basically selfish in nature. I admire professionals who, by the very nature of their professions, have to be good listeners - therapists, psychologists and pyschiatrists immediately come to mind. I know I couldn't do it. I would be too impatient..."Mrs. Jones, we have been working on this issue for ten years now - what part of (insert issue here) do you just not get?" Yeah, I don't think my practice would survive very long...

Thankfully, my Heavenly Father is a good listener. Would that I would listen to Him more often.

Be blessed.

This blog is dedicated to my mother who hears me say, "You never listen to me!" at least once a day.

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