There’s a lot of shouting going on out there. Yelling seems to be the current method of getting your message heard but sadly, some are yelling so loud and so much that many have literally stopped hearing them. The anger and hate is deafening and many are turning a deaf ear on what is hoped to be heard and in some cases, should be heard. Maybe for a minute, we should all stop screaming and instead start listening.
But, people in general just aren’t good listeners. We would much rather be talking. And posting. And commenting. We seem to value speaking and being heard over listening and understanding. If by chance we do listen, it’s often just to set up our opinion or argument. We are living in a very politically and socially charged season right now and everyone has strong opinions they feel are the only opinions and more importantly, the only right opinions. As a wise friend once told me though, there are two sides to every story (and opinion): one side, the other side, and the truth. Think about that for a minute.
Think also about the oldie but goodie “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Rather then saying something demeaning or insulting, try breathing and listening. If you can’t be positive, be quiet. The silent majority often wins the battle even though some would have you believe all those squeeky wheels get the oil. Oil is slimy. Silence is golden.
Everywhere you look today someone has something to say but rarely hears what else is being said. Making our point is the goal, as is convincing others to approve what we believe and proving we are right by golly and you are wrong. End of story. End of post. End of any chance of agreement, reconciliation, or truce.
In short, we are good at talking but not so good at listening. Effective listening is an art; a learned skill. It is not something that’s arrived at easily or naturally, but it is an asset like no other. What if we just stopped for a minute to listen to others; really listen. Instead of planning and plotting our agenda and getting our points known, how about we work on truly understanding and comprehending another person’s position? As the Peace Prayer of St. Francis entreats, seek not so much to be understood as to understand. Something so simple and so benevolent could be the solution as we all strive for unity and acceptance.
It’s no secret that the quieter you become the more you can hear. We all want to be heard and are hearing a lot right now but much of it is falling on deaf ears because it’s being screamed at us in an unreceptive scolding tone. It’s also become non-stop screaming, which no one will listen to for very long. No one likes to be yelled at and everyone likes to be listened to.
Listening to others actually presents one with a win-win situation. Much of what we say is often misunderstood, which leads to conflict, frustration, and even disillusionment, as is so evidenced today. But, when you actively and respectfully listen to others, it encourages respect for both you and your opinion and a reciprocal level of listening back. In the perfect world course. There will be some…many probably…who no matter how much you listen to their side and opinion they will never listen to yours but if they don’t, it’s on them.
Listening is quite frankly the key to effective communication. You can yak away your position, but unless who you’re yaking to listens, it’s all for not. Don’t raise your voice; improve your argument. Some might say listening demonstrates weakness but I’m of the belief that smart people don’t plan big moves out loud. They let their success be their noise and know full well that silence is not a weakness. “Listen and learn” is real advice and real true.
To be a good listener, make who you’re listening to feel heard and maybe even understood. Make sure everyone feels safe in the conversation and focus on the speaker as they speak. In today’s online age, this is often impossible to do, but remember that when someone is stressed or insulted by what is being said or written, they are more likely to mishear or misread what you’re trying to get across. Never, ever try to convey emotions over the internet or texting and remember that feelings are never wrong. If what you say or write hurts someone’s feelings, your point is defeated. No one cares if you make them mad, but they do care if you hurt their feelings.
Lastly, pay close attention to who you’re listening to. There are many false prophets out there and you never want to take advice from someone you don’t respect. As you listen, present feedback in a polite yet informed manner and asks questions before submitting opinion or argument. Listen closely to what is being said and if there’s any doubt as to what the point is, repeat back what was said.
God gave us two ears and only one mouth, so He must have been on to something. A big part of loving is listening and a big part of praying is listening. God is constantly speaking to us but unlike us, he doesn’t scream so we need to be listening. When in prayer, we’re quick to present our petitions but do we ever sit still and listen to or for God? We’re good at talking to Him but not so good at talking with Him. Not bad advice when it comes to others as well.
I’d like to suggest that just for a day, maybe a week, or how about a month, try talking with people not talking to them. And talk to those whose opinions and outlooks differ from yours. Give them chance and give them a listen. You might just listen and learn.