Recovering the Lost Art of Listening

Failure to Listen Properly is Driving us Apart

In a small town church in Texas, a member of the congregation was known for his attitude.  He wasn’t exactly unruly, nor did he cause disturbances, but was known by what is referred to as a “Doubting Thomas.”

He brought down the entire congregation with his negative attitude, and despite the looks from the deacons and the reprimanding from elderly parishioners, his ways were set.

The pastor was shocked when he discovered he had a counseling session with the man on Wednesday afternoon.  The pastor wracked his brain trying to figure out how to “put this man in his place.”

When the time came for the appointment, he had nothing.  No words of wisdom, no Biblical correction, no stern warnings.  So when they sat down together, he simply looked at him and said, “What’s going on?”

The man spewed things out for 20 minutes, and then stopped.  The Pastor nodded, and said, “What else?”

The man again dove into all the issues he was facing for another 20 minutes.  To which the pastor replied, “And what else?”

This went on for over an hour, until the man finally responded with, “Well, I guess that’s about it.”

Active Listening, Listening, or Waiting our Turn to Talk

A 2010 poll by USA Today found that over 1/3 of women claim their pets are better listeners than their husbands.  And it’s safe to say that the art of listening is rapidly becoming a lost art; unless we choose to change that course.   Here’s what you have to pay attention to in order to actually be a good listener.

Listen for names – Every time someone is talking to you, there will be names dropped.  There’s a deep psychology behind name dropping; everyone wants to feel important and knowing more people makes them feel important.

Listen for inconsistencies – Sometimes our stories don’t make sense.  It could be because they’re made up and complete lies… or it might just be poor story telling skills.

Listen for places – Similar to name dropping, place dropping can make people feel like they’ve been somewhere and done something.

Ask questions – You likely already do the first three: because you’re waiting your turn to talk.  When the other person has finished, you’re excited to talk about the names you know (we know the same people!) and the places you’ve been (I spent a month in Italy too!) and how their story is full of holes (there’s no way you climbed Everest back in ’82!).  The conscious effort, however, is going to be a switch in mindset from waiting our turn to talk, to asking questions about the people, places, and things being discussed.

Can’t think of anything good to ask?  Take a tip from the Pastor, and just say, “Tell me more.”

Why Better Listening will Improve the World

It’s safe to say that we’re all pretty polarized in our beliefs.  One reason is because we don’t take the time to understand where another person is coming from.  And that stems from a failure to listen properly.

“Seek first to understand, then to be understood” – Stephen Covey

Gain a better understanding of the world and our community with TEDxBillings!  Join us at our next Salon Event on February 8th.  Tickets are on sale now, and they won’t last long.