Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Art of Listening

Anyone who's navigated the scriptures for any length of time knows there's a grand design to it - - far grander than any mere prologue or epilogue can convey.  Nothing is wasted; nothing that can be ignored.  The things that don't make sense today make sense tomorrow.  The things that made sense ten years ago now mean something even more poignant. 

Regardless of which book, or which passage of scripture I select, there are recurring themes that often follow me around for days on end.  In recent weeks I have been accompanied by the subject of listening

Years ago my mother was often given to chuckling (or annoyance) about how readily I ran to the kitchen when I heard the crumple of a candy wrapper, but how feigned my response - "I didn't hear you" - when called to dry dishes.  Seems we are all capable of hearing what we want to hear & tuning out the rest. 

No one did this better than God's wayward people.  It was the root cause of their trouble, for certainly not listening meant not hearing, and not hearing meant not obeying, and not obeying meant a trip to the woodshed. 

In the Book of Jeremiah alone we find the term listen used over 57 times in direct corrolation to God's people being told to listen, and then being told why their not listening was an unwise maneuver.  For example:

But they did not listen or
pay attention;
instead, they followed the stubborn
inclinations  of their evil hearts.
They went backward and
not forward. 
Jeremiah 7:24

I warned you when you felt secure, 
but you said, 'I will not listen!’
This has been your way from
your youth; you have not obeyed me. 
Jeremiah 22:21

Ugh!  There it is:  the tether between listening & obeying.  Hard to ignore. 

I don't know about you, but I'm still capable of hearing what I want to hear & tuning out the rest.  God's crumpling of a candy wrapper (the parts of scripture I like best) still gets my attention, but a call to do something I'm not too kean about (the parts that cost me more than I'm willing to pay or surrender) ... not so much.

Maybe there's something to be said about developing better listening skills ... 

Maintain eye contact with the instructor. Of course you will need to look at your notebook to write your notes, but eye contact keeps you focused on the job at hand and keeps you involved in the lecture. 

Focus on content, not delivery. Have you ever counted the number of times a teacher clears his/her throat in a fifteen minute period? If so, you weren't focusing on content.

Avoid emotional involvement. When you are too emotionally involved in listening, you tend to hear what you want to hear--not what is actually being said. Try to remain objective and open-minded.

Avoid distractions. Don't let your mind wander or be distracted by the person shuffling papers near you. If the classroom is too hot or too cold try to remedy that situation if you can. The solution may require that you dress more appropriately to the room temperature.

Treat listening as a challenging mental task. Listening to an academic lecture is not a passive act--at least it shouldn't be. You need to concentrate on what is said so that you can process the information into your notes.

Stay active by asking mental questions. Active listening keeps you on your toes. Here are some questions you can ask yourself as you listen. What key point is the professor making? How does this fit with what I know from previous lectures? How is this lecture organized?

Use the gap between the rate of speech and your rate of thought. You can think faster than the lecturer can talk. That's one reason your mind may tend to wander.

All the above suggestions will help you keep your mind occupied and focused on what being said. You can actually begin to anticipate what the professor is going to say as a way to keep your mind from straying. Your mind does have the capacity to listen, think, write and ponder at the same time, but it does take practice. 

Wish I'd said all that.  Then again, I can listen and hear, then choose to obey.

Listening Skills, Taken from the Student Handbook/University of Minnesota


Debbie said...

Good morning! WOW...was this ever a good post, and Oh sooo true....I too am soo guilty of hearing WHAT I want to hear and then straining (supposedly) to hear what I really don't... what's uncomfortable or even a downright order. Had a perfect example of this just yesterday. I have been really working on listening to ALL of it too. Have a wonderful week-end! HUGS

Thoughts for the day said...

This is so true especially when it is communication between couples. I will often say 'did you hear what I said?' and especially if he is watching a program and I want to talk to him, I will stop until he looks at me and let's me know he is listening. Listening to what is said and what is NOT said is huge in relationships. thank you for the reminder.

Nancy said...

I have been accused of the same thing by my family but I don't think the excuses I offer them will work with God. He speaks in such a way that we do hear and then the choice is ours...obey or not...More times than I want to admit, I am like the Israelites and go my own way but He is showing me that the blessings come with obedience and boy do I love blessings....

Denise said...

Great post.

manthano said...

Sounds like you have been looking at the "Church" of today.

But having a "sweet tooth" I am inclined to hear the candy wrappers too. Especially in the Scriptures.

Thanks for the post.

Debbie said...

True listening means you have to care. When I trained as a speaker, we were reminded that people will be more willing to listen to what you have to say if they know that you care. Just because someone is in a position of authority doesn't always warrant people listening to them. I had a boss at work years ago who assumed that.

Having written this, when it comes to God ...well, He does care BIG TIME. And He is all knowing and faithful and trustworthy. So bottom line ... I choose and desire to listen to Him.

Love you,

Beth E. said...

LISTENING has been the subject of many discussions in our house, of late. Hubby Bill and I will have a conversation about something and a couple of days later, he'll ask me a question about if we never had that conversation! LOL I do agree that we are selective with our listening.

This is a good word, Sassy...mind if I print it and give it to my hubby? ;-)


Just a little something from Judy said...

One of the best listeners that I know is my husband. He is teaching me how to really listen by his example. The list you share is so valuable. Everyone longs for someone who truly listens to what they are saying. Blessing comes to us in many ways when we listen and obey our Heavenly Father. For me, it is life long lessons and I am so thankful for His patience with me.

Another great thought provoking post, my friend.

Susan J. Reinhardt said...

Hi Kathleen -

Excellent advice. Note taking has always helped me stay focused and remember the content.

Susan :)

RCUBEs said...

I, for one, am also guilty of having selective hearing. As a nurse, we are trained to be objective but I still find it hard sometimes to have that goal as many unpleasant things come my way. Especially at work. Thanks for this reminder and I'll etch it in my heart so next time I want to say something...I better shut up and listen instead...But listen with understanding even if what's being said does not agree with what I believe in...Blessings.

Karen Lange said...

Excellent reminder and tips! I need to daily cultivate this skill. I too, can be better at hearing the candy wrapper crinkle..:)

Hope you are having a lovely week!