Shakespeare mentions it, world leaders study it and business people master it. One technique enhances all relationships: Listening.
What is listening?
“Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen,” Winston Churchill once said at a conference in Washington, D.C.
Listening is the underdog of conversation.
It provides an instant connection between two individuals and determines the length and depth of their discussion.
“To hear something with thoughtful attention,” is one of the Merriam Webster definitions for listening.
Did you notice the secret?
Listening is essentially hearing with attention.
Hearing vs. Listening
Why is it, then, that listening is so difficult to master?
In an article from The New York Times titled, “The Science and Art of Listening,” the author describes two types of listening: bottom-up and top-down.
The bottom-up response describes the process in your brain when you are startled, like hearing a siren on a peaceful walk in the park.
The top-down response, however, engages a different part of your brain which allows your brain to intentionally focus on one sound while drowning out the rest.
Top-down listening, however, can be interrupted and requires consistent intentional effort and compassion to stay locked into a conversation.
According to the article, “Listening is a skill we’re in danger of losing in a world of digital distraction and information overload.”
Grounded in Scripture
Listening, in my opinion, reflects the depths of the heart.
All throughout Scripture God commands His people to listen.
Solomon explains the significance of listening to gain wisdom, James contrasts listening from becoming angry and Samuel learns at a young age how to listen to God.
Proverbs 2:2 says, “Making your heart attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding.”
James 1:19 says, “Know this my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”
In Samuel 3:10 Samuel listens to God, “And the Lord came and stood, calling as at other times, ‘Samuel! Samuel!’ And Samuel said, ‘Speak for your servant is listening.'”
In my own life I have gained tremendous benefits from both listening to others and being able to vent with close family and friends.
I have always treasured long conversations with my mom, discussing whatever’s going on in my life and hers.
It connects us in a powerful way.
When people listen something shifts in the relationship.
It may sound cliche but listening reveals compassion and unselfishness.
Listening is powerful because it is rooted in Biblical truth, encompassing all times and all generations.
What are some easy techniques we can make to improve our listening skills?
1. Eye Contact
Begin by looking directly at people in conversation.
Maintain eye contact with them.
Even when they look away, stay focused.
It may seem creepy at first, but it will force your mind to stay focused on the conversation.
2. Ask Questions
When someone is talking to you, ask questions.
Ask for more information, try to understand the emotion behind their stories and sympathize with them.
3. Be Prepared to Change your Mind
Genuine listening allows you to hear information that might enlighten you on important topics.
So take a moment.
Put away your cell phone, look someone in the eye and tune your ears.
They may just give you a glimpse into their heart, if only you will listen.