Lately, my 3-year-old has decided not to listen to my wife and I, especially when we are getting on to her. Strangely, I’ve been having flashbacks of my mom’s stern, motherly voice saying, “You’re not listening to me!” I just can’t seem to remember her exact words though. I wasn’t really paying attention at the time.
In general, people are not good listeners. An article reported that people only remember “…between 25 percent and 50 percent of what we hear. That means that when you talk to your boss, colleagues, customers or spouse for 10 minutes, they pay attention to less than half of the conversation. This is dismal!” (MindTools.com).
We need to be better listeners. Our bad listening skills help create confusion, misunderstandings, arguments, and gossip. Many issues would never occur if people just listened more carefully. Here are a few of reasons why it is especially important to be good listeners as Christians.
- Scripture: The Bible is filled with passages about listening. Some are about the good and bad results of listening (Matthew 7:24-27; Proverbs 12:15; 13:18, 19:27, Psalm 119:18; etc), but the vast majority are about people who listened to God’s message and walked away with a changed life (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Samuel 3:10; etc).
- Non-Christians: We need to carefully listen to our non-Christian friends not only because it’s respectful, but also so we can get to know them and find ways to drive the conversation toward the Lord. This is especially important during a Bible study. Jesus was the master of turning a conversation toward the spiritual (John 3:1ff, 4:1ff, etc.). It seems like He was always looking for a way to focus the discussion on God. This took great listening skills.
- Worship: Sometimes people don’t take much from the worship services because they simply weren’t listening. We need to focus on the words of the songs, not just sing them because they are familiar. We need to listen to the words being prayed and hear the preacher’s message. It’s impossible to be fully engaged in worship when we mentally detach ourselves and let our minds wander.
So, how can we improve our listening skills? Here are a few tips: (1) Choose to Pay Attention. Look at the person speaking, put distracting thoughts aside, and don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal. (2) Show Them You are Listening. Face the person, look them in the eyes, nod, smile, and show facial reactions. (3) Provide Feedback. Summarize what they said and ask questions. (4) Be Polite. Allow the person to finish speaking without interruptions and counter arguments. (5) Respond. Ask a question, make a statement, clarify something you don’t understand, or give any other appropriate response (Tips are from the article referenced above).
The benefits of good listening skills are limitless. It can help our spiritual lives, our marriages, and our friendships. Let’s strive to not just hear words and sounds, but to actively listen.