Lending More Than Your Ear

Listening is a craft, and it involves so much more than simply hearing.  Some are fantastic listeners, but most of us could improve our skills to effectively listen, and demonstrate empathy toward others.

 

We may lack confidence in our ability to speak well, but have you ever considered that listening well makes you a far better communicator?  Listening can be a way to demonstrate that you put others first.  As long as listening is not for the purposes of plotting, scheming or searching for a chink in someone’s armor, it is a selfless action to listen, rather than to be heard.  When a person needs someone to listen, they need someone to lighten and share their burdens.  Their mind unlocks, and burdens begin to ease as they feel that another human being cares for them.  You have helped them to pour out their confusion and overwhelm, and now they can gain clarity.  Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most crucial aspects of good listening technique.

 

>Concentrate on what is being said, instead of how you will respond.  Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about our response, or how we can relate to what is being said.  Instead, completely focus on what they communicate.

>Let them speak without interruption.  Interjecting your questions or thoughts, causes them to feel as though they didn’t complete their story.  They feel cut off.  If you’re concerned about forgetting questions or points that you would like to make, try jotting down some reminders.

>Don’t finish someone’s sentences or help them find a word, unless they ask for help.  They don’t feel helped, they feel interrupted.

>When they’ve finished telling their entire story, it’s time for you to jump in.  If they are looking for advice, here is where you may offer it.  If they are not looking for advice, but are instead trying to problem solve or gain clarity, try drawing them out with open-ended questions.  Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see error in their thinking, and they are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.

>A pleasant and relaxed smile with natural eye contact, will communicate your sincerity, empathy and engagement.  Be aware of your head nodding.  Nodding gives an impression of agreement.  If this is not the impression that you want to communicate, then make an effort to control that.

>Summarize what you’ve heard.  This is your opportunity to prove that you have been actively listening, and that they have been heard.

>Be patient and understanding.  They may need to tell the same story repeatedly.  They are working through things, and for some, this is very helpful.

>Finally, make sure to follow up with them.  This demonstrates your sincerity, and that they are not out of sight – out of mind.  Knowing that someone truly cares, removes feelings of loneliness.

 

Let’s look at another type of listening.  Listening to someone who is upset with us.  Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves, or make excuses.  God’s word gives us helpful guidance in this area.  James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”.  Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”.  As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.  Arguing or making excuses for yourself, will further inflame.  It is wiser to listen, and then take it to prayer, allowing God to show you the truth.

 

Listening is so much more than hearing.  When we really listen, we are fully engaged.  We hear, but we also see the other person’s emotional state, and we feel compassion and empathy.  One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is simply listening to them.  Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen.  When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being.  Most of us won’t get this completely right every time, but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.

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Tainted Opinion

It plays in the mind, something like this:  He’s speaking today? – I don’t want to listen to that Pastor – he handled my friend’s situation so badly.  She’s here? – I don’t like her – she hurt my friend.  I don’t want to sit here – that person sits nearby.  I won’t be his friend – I’ve heard he’s not a man of integrity.  In the mind, clouds hang over this person, but there are two things in common with each scenario.  First, these tainted opinions are not based on personal experience, and second, they are opinions formed after having heard only one side of the story.  Proverbs 18:17 says, that any story sounds true until someone sets the record straight.  Unfortunately, a lot of damage is done in the meantime.

 

I submit that while another’s reputation is being destroyed, often the destroyer believes that they are fully justified, or that no one is really getting hurt.  I also submit that usually, a liar completely believes their own lies, and that they are extremely skilled, and can be very convincing.  Lastly, I submit that these influences always hurt – always.  Whether the subject ever knows or not, they have been discredited, and at the very least, they will wonder why other people treat them the way that they do.

 

If your ears hear a negative word, or your eyes see a negative expression, a red flag should go up.  Immediately begin asking yourself questions.  Do I have the entire story?  Does this match up with my own personal experience with this person?  Do I even have a personal experience with this person?  Does the person that is influencing your opinion, stand to gain something by swaying you?  You’ll need to dismiss attempts to negatively influence your opinion.  You’ll need to give the subject person a chance to live out their own representation of who they really are.  What’s the best way to stop the contamination from spreading?  Simply cast it away, and then the next time that you have the opportunity, open your heart and mind to the slandered person, or allow your previous high opinion of them shine through, and be your influencer.

Friend of Comfort

The one that you trusted so much, was untrustworthy with your heart, and now they are your lost one.  It feels safer to climb up onto a shelf and watch life, rather than allowing someone else into your heart again.  So many tell you to move on, or get over it, or their words communicate their thoughts of “why are you still hurting”?  Whether platonic or romantic, your lost one, possesses a piece of your heart, and you have a piece of theirs.  That aching that you feel from time to time, is the void that was left in your heart, when they left your life.

 

Hopefully as you learn to trust again, a friend of comfort will come into your life.  They won’t be able to fill the void that the other one left, but that’s alright, because they will make their own special home in your heart.

 

How will you recognize a Friend of Comfort?  They won’t tell you to get over it, because they might have a void in their heart from a lost one, and they might still be hurting.  They will understand and be patient with you, when you grieve.  They will tell you kind things, like when you feel a tugging on your heart, it is your lost one tugging from wherever they are, and that they must be remembering and missing you, because you played such a special part in their life.  They will remind you that rebuilding after an emotional storm, is a process.  They will encourage you when you’ve seen your lost one, or heard from them, and feel as though all of the rebuilding that you’ve done, has been for nothing.  They will see that you are strong and compassionate, and they will tell you so.  They will see that you are special and beautiful, and they will make sure that you believe it.  They will see that you have a heart that can comfort, because it knows pain.

 

I have been blessed with friends of comfort entering my life, and this post is dedicated to them.  Each one has played a very special part in rebuilding me, after the storms that have hit in my life.  They each are a piece to my puzzle, and this has become a beautiful puzzle.  Some are sensitive.  Some are quirky.  Some are hilarious.  All are smart, honest, loyal and fun to have in my life.  They persist in telling me that I’m special.  They have proven to me that I am worthy and deserving of having true and loyal friends, that also have the capacity to give back to me.  I’m just so thankful for each one of them.

 

Come on down from that shelf.  You’ve learned a lot about who to trust, and how to trust.  There is a friend of comfort waiting, because they need a friend of comfort too, and that might be you.

 

2  Corinthians 1:3-4 All praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He is the source of every mercy, and He comforts us.  He comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort others.  When others are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort that God has given us.