Proverbs 18:13He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him. The Bible has much to say about listening. There has to be intentionality behind it; otherwise, so much is missed, gets misunderstood and conflict often ensues.
Something to consider in relation to listening is this: how well you listen to others reveals the value you place on them. Someone who loves well, listens well.
Our most important relationship is with God, or at least is should be for disciples of Jesus Christ. For those who struggle to hear His voice: what value do you place on your relationship with Him? How interested are you in what He has to say? Part of intentionality as it relates to listening is taking genuine interest in the other person. If you’re more concerned about him or her knowing and understanding you, more than likely they won’t. Think about it: how much do you listen to those who don’t show any interest in you? As the saying goes, “People don’t care about how much you know, until they know how much you care.
An important principle in good communication is checking your bias at the door.
Viewpoints and opinions interrupt listening when they’re not in check. It’s not necessarily bad to have a viewpoint in the conversation; unless, it is a bad lens through which one sees. Some may discover that their viewpoint is skewed, and it takes someone else to help clarify things. If they’re more interested in keeping it (flawed or not) than they are about the truth, they may be creating strongholds. Obviously, in such cases, pride, ego, envy and the like may be at the heart of the issue. Secondly, it is important to come into the conversation without a hidden agenda. To be sure, there are times when agendas are necessary to get things accomplished; however, they should be clearly stated ahead of time. The Bible tells us to do things openly (see 2 Corinthians 4:2). Those with hidden agendas often are master manipulators.
A good listener looks beneath the surface. If you truly value people, what’s in their heart, and what’s going on their life will be of interest to you.
In order to listen well, we need to see beyond someone’s words, because they don’t always reveal what’s going on. While it is true that from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (see Matthew 12:34), the way people speak and how they’re behaving are also indicators of what’s in their heart. By now, you may have heard the phrase, “The issue is not (necessarily) the issue.” For example, mild-mannered Clark never gets upset about anything. He’s always calm, cool and collected. He never complains. Then one day while at work, you notice he’s griping about everything, even what you might consider insignificant. Then suddenly, Clark lays into a co-worker about the way he’s doing something; even though, he’s been doing it that way for years. In fact, it was Clark who trained him to do it in that manner. Are the little things and the co-worker’s performance the real issues? No, something’s going on at home, and it came to work with him. This is a simplification of this principle, but if you apply it to life in general, you might be amazed at how much patience you will have with others, and how far you can go with loving them well. Words and behavior do not determine who a person is; they reflect what’s in his heart. A jerk is not jerk simply because he’s a jerk. Things happened in his life to help mold his disposition. Whether it’s his childhood environment, his current one and everything between are contributors. Of course, if he doesn’t know Jesus Christ, he has no power to help himself. In short, more than likely the “jerk” is actually someone with deep wounds, who uses abrasiveness and anger to cope.
Proverbs 20:12The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made both of them. Not only do you need to be willing to see beneath the surface, you absolutely need Holy Spirit to discern the heart and its intents. A couple reasons are that you may “misdiagnose” the individual, and you may put something there that is non-existent. A quick example is when a person falsely accuses your friend to be a certain way, when you know better. He misunderstood your friend, while you know your friend’s heart. Without Holy Spirit, we tend to assume to know what’s going on. Jesus basically said it is important how we listen (see Luke 8:18).
Be willing to “walk in someone else’s shoes.”
In other words, try to see his point of view. Pay attention to what set of lenses he sees through. Everyone has different backgrounds, upbringing and life experiences. They all influence the way they see things. It is easier to listen without being defensive when you consider from where someone comes. What makes sense to you may not make sense to him, and vice versa, because your lenses differ. If you don’t at least try to consider a different point of view, you will never listen well; much less, be a good communicator.
One final thought: if you find it difficult to listen to others in general, you may want to ask the Lord to reveal what’s in your heart that’s interfering. We’ve all had those one-sided conversations that are more of a monologue than a dialogue. Why are some people so self-absorbed?