Sunday, January 19, 2014

An Ounce of Prevention: 'Are You a Good Listener?'

I know, right?

That's a stellar quote right there! It actually makes me think of one of my all-time favorite Message translation verses in the Bible:

"God has no use for the prayers of the people who won’t listen to him."---Proverbs 28:9

Listening? Listening is important. And when it comes to healthy relationships, it's paramount. When it comes to our relationship with God, we need to listen to him, his Word and his messengers. And the following definitions are evidence of whether we are listening---or not: "to pay attention; heed; obey".

Mic check: If you are not obeying God's Word, then you are not listening to God. (Whew!)

And when it comes to our relationship with people, although as a wife, there is still some obeying to be done (hence Titus 2:5 says that older women are to mentor younger women to be "obedient to their own husbands"), before a relationship gets to a point where you can *trust a man enough* to heed to where he is leading (which is what submitting is all about-Colossians 3:18), there is another kind of listening that needs to take place: "to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing; give ear".

When you respect someone, one way that you show it is by *paying attention* to what they are saying.

And trust me, as someone who is still trying to master this, listening is a skill that you have to work to develop on a daily basis. And also as someone who does marriage counseling, I'll tell you that if there's one thing that drives men *absolutely up the wall*, it's a woman who doesn't listen to them...over-talks them...tells them what they're saying and meaning...cuts them off in the middle of their sentences...sighs and rolls their eyes...etc., etc.

So in the effort to make sure that your future husband truly falls in love with you (LOL), I wanted to share some information that I "happened upon" (Proverbs 16:33-AMP) from two different articles. One of them is a career-based website that had an piece entitled "Are You a Good Listener?":

“Good listening skills will get you farther than all of your most interesting experiences and stories ever will,” writes Cecelia Cooper on Here’s a checklist worth considering:

1) Listen for what a person is feeling, not just what they’re saying. See if you can hear the unspoken fears, concerns, or aspirations. Try to enter the speaker’s world for a few minutes.

2) Give your undivided attention. Most interruptions can be controlled, and if they can’t, find a better place to have your conversation.

3) Encourage the speaker with both verbal         (“I see,” Go on,” “Uh-huh,” “I understand”) and nonverbal cues (facing the person directly, making appropriate eye contact, and nodding).

4) Our minds work faster than another person can speak. (This phenomenon is true for nearly everyone–sorry, this doesn’t make you gifted!) Stay in the moment. Do not let your mind wander toward you what you are going to say next.

5) Resist the temptation to “hijack” a story and make it yours. There is a false empathy in saying, “I know how you feel.” In fact, you likely do not–and besides, the story isn’t about you. Meanwhile, avoid joining a one-up-manship where people start competing for the floor or the best example.

6) Hold your body still, controlling your hands and limbs from needless movement. Being still will help you focus your attention and slow down your racing mind. Stay in the moment of listening instead of moving on to developing your response.

7) Practice not forming opinions or making a judgment while a person is speaking. Recognize–and work to set aside–your own emotions and biases. Give the speaker sufficient time to explain his or her point of view.

8) Resist imagining a “quick fix.” If there were an easy answer, the speaker would likely already know it. Besides, you are being asked to listen. Brainstorming solutions together might be appropriate later.

9) Don’t minimize what the speaker is saying or seems to be feeling. You may mean to sound comforting with a response such as, “You shouldn’t worry about things like that,” but it may come across as if you are dismissing their response.

10) Finally, notice how often you give unsolicited advice. It so often sounds like criticism. Your counsel may be sought, but wait to be asked.

#10: Something that I have gotten into the habit of is when people email me about stuff going on in their lives, I'll say "Do you want to vent or do you actually want me to say something?" You'd be amazed how many people aren't looking for a comment but just want a safe place to...share.

And as it relates to interacting with men in particular, the points that stood out to me most was not hijacking their story (if someone is talking about themselves, how did they conversation end with you talking about you?) and not trying to "quick fix" everything. I have said before that I have a happily married sistah-friend who says that when her husband comes to her with financial woes her response is "I'll give you sex or prayer but I'm going to bed." That tickles me every time she says it. Her point? "It's not my job to be stressing out with him over our financial state. He and God will find a plan. Sex will help to relax him and prayer will help to support him, but I'm not going to do God's job." Talk about taking a mature position in her marriage and being aware that she's there *to help* (Genesis 2:18) not to *run it*.

So, if you're in a serious relationship or even if you just have male friends, it couldn't hurt to ask them if they think you are a good listener. And here's the thing: *actually listen to their answer*. (LOL)

That brings us to the second article that I checked out: "Listening Skills – 11 Steps to Become a Good Listener". It's also a corporate platform article but relevant nonetheless:

Some people are very good at speaking, telling their stories and being able to inspire others. But being a good listener is often more important than speaking. It gives a deeper level of understanding about someone’s situation, and helps to know what words are best to use and what words should be avoided.

Should we consider the meaning behind people’s words? Should we look beyond the vowels and the consonants to understand their body language and tone of voice to get clarity on their thoughts, feelings and beliefs.

Here’s 11 steps to improve your listening skills.

1. A good listener is attentive. They make good eye contact, don’t interrupt what the other person is saying and show an interest in what is being communicated. There’s always something incredible you can hear in anyone’s story.

2. A good listener does not look over the shoulder of the person that’s speaking, waiting for someone more interesting to come along.

3. A good listener does not check their phone or tablet in the middle of a conversation, when someone is sharing with them.

4. A good listener is not waiting for their chance to get a word in, treating the ‘period of listening’ as a pause in their ‘monologue.’ Being so focused on trying to get ones view over is insensitive and misses the real value in the conversation.

5. A good listener uses positive body language; leaning forward and showing an enthusiastic, relaxed nature. They don’t fidget, cross arms, look elsewhere or express inappropriate shock or disbelief at what’s shared.

6. A good listener does not hurry somebody, but asks good questions to guide the sharing. They guide and help shape what’s being shared, but if the other person feels cut off or squashed they’ve failed.

7. A good listener does not approach a conversation with prejudice, expecting to know what’s going to come out of the speaker’s lips. They don’t listen with a pre-formed opinion but attempt to have an open mind to what’s being communicated. It’s amazing how much time is wasted with the belief that people understand what someone means without taking the effort and time to listen.

8. A good listener cares. They show empathy for what the other person has to say. It’s genuine, authentic and comes from a place of truthful concern.

9. A good listener identifies areas of agreement with the speaker whilst avoiding the cliché statement: “I know exactly how you feel.” Because you don’t. It ends up sounding insensitive, trite or self-centered. Everyone loves to be truly understood. No one likes to be patronized.

10. A good listener remembers. They remember and follow up conversations wherever possible. They treat what is shared with respect and where appropriate ongoing interaction.

11. A good listener knows how to treat what is shared with confidentiality. They are trustworthy and sensitive with information and never look to use anything that is shared for any purpose other then good.

Good speakers don’t always make the best listeners. But a speaker who knows how to be a good listener, has a profound impact on someone who simply likes the sound of their own voice. Good listeners earn the right to speak, because they are sharing more than their own experiences.

Excellent list. Simply excellent!

Words can't express just how much healthier your marriage will be if you become a good listener as a single woman.

After all, to love *is* to listen.



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