Listen To People

Perhaps you've heard the expression, "You have two ears and one mouth for a reason!"

As a child, I thought this statement was rather ridiculous. After all, maybe two ears are there just to complete bilateral symmetry (What is that?).

But as I've grown less childish, I realize that two ears and one mouth could be God's way of reminding us to "be swift to hear, slow to speak." (James 1:19)

So much frustration arises in my life from miscommunication; and often the culprit is someone not listening well.

Whether it's me or someone else, the result is bad--people are not understanding each other. When that happens, people get mad; and when people get mad, they say and/or do stupid things.

Yes, this is probably starting to sound like a DirectTV commercial.

Nevertheless, let me offer a friendly reminder to you--listen to what people are saying, not what you think they will say.

In my opinion, there are two types of "not listening."

#1. Completely not listening

This is rude and immature. Stop it.

#2. Partial listening

You get bits and pieces of what the other person said.

This happens because:

A. You're distracted or you don't care very much about what they are saying.

B. You think you already know what they are going to say, so you stop listening to the words coming out of their mouth and start formulating your response to what you think they will say (based on your biases and predispositions).

How do I become a better listener?

#1 Be straightforward and kind.

If you are a poor multitasker, then warn people. My wife knows me pretty well. She knows when my brain is occupied, it's not a good time to tell me something important.

If you are similar, let people know that now may not be the best time to talk; then offer them another time when you can talk with them.

#2 Care about what people think.

This is a challenge.

Even if someone is different from you, you should still care what they think. Why? Because it matters.

What other people think determines what they do. And what other people do determines the type of world we live in.

Lately I've had several discussions with people the disagree with me; and I don't mean a little. We completely disagree. Yet I've tried really hard to hear them out, and even to ask them questions (tactfully) about why they hold their views.

#3 Look at people when they speak.

This allows you to perceive the non-verbal communication, which can completely change the meaning of some words!

#4 Read every word people write.

I have been guilty of this many times. I skim through someone's email or text message and don't catch some important points. Later I talk to them and realize I missed things because I didn't read it thoroughly.

Rude. Lazy. Immature. Trying to stop that.

#5 Limit your biases.

We all have bias. If you think you don't, I'd like to meet you to see if you're right!

But we should all strive to identify our biases and limit them. You might think you know what someone thinks or the viewpoint based on their appearance, their age, their nationality, their religion, their political persuasion, etc.

But often what you think you know is not true. People are complicated, and very rarely do they fit into polarized "boxes" or generalizations.

You don't know what someone thinks until they tell you.

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