You know that woman who manages to be heard above all the other voices in the group?
That’s not normally me.
I just don’t like fighting for attention. If I’m going to talk, I really want to be listened to.
The people I respect most in life are those who ask insightful questions and lean forward to wait for the entire answer.
We all know when we’re not being heard — we know the signs:
- There’s the distracted listener, mumbling “Mmmmhmmm” as they continue on with their task or scan the room for someone presumably more important.
- There’s also the impatient interrupter, who can only take so much of our story before they jump in with their own.
- And there’s the self-absorbed misinterpreter, who misses the heart of what we’re saying, because they’re just waiting for a springboard to make their own point.
One of my life goals is to listen well to others: to be fully present and hear them out even when I’m dying to offer my own “brilliant” insight.
I still fall short, of course, but something I’ve noticed is that I’m far better at this with my friends than I am with my own family.
When a friend is hurting, rejoicing, or simply sharing a humorous anecdote, I ignore the chaos around me, make eye contact, and show them they have my full attention.
After all, that’s a sign of respect and selflessness.
When my husband comes alongside me at the computer to share a thought or when one of my five kids wanders into the kitchen to tell a story, I fake listen far too often.
I keep right on clicking my mouse, or reading my recipe and offer “What?” “Really?” and “Hmm, that’s interesting!” with oddly inappropriate inflections.
My children’s stories can be long, winding, and somewhat anticlimactic. Their questions and issues often drain me. And sometimes my husband’s news doesn’t grab my interest either. I respond with a hasty courtesy laugh or a two-step solution to solve the problem at hand.
After all, I have a job to finish.. or a fascinating facebook post to comment on… perhaps even a list of chores to dish out.
But they notice. They’re quick to conclude that what I’m doing is more important than them.
And in so doing, I fail to obey the command to “regard one another as more important than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NASB). I fail to model the virtues I long for my children to possess.
By my example, I raise distracted listeners, impatient interrupters, and self-absorbed misinterpreters.
Of course, modeling good listening is only half of how you and I teach our children.
We must listen well to them while also drawing their attention to how well they listen to others. We must be intentional in lessons on humility.
As parents, we are called to reflect and teach the nature of our loving Heavenly Father, whose “ears are open” to the prayers of the righteous (1Peter 3:12 NKJV) and who invites us to “pour out [our] heart before Him” (Psalm 62:8 NASB).
As you and I rest in the knowledge that we have our Father’s full attention, let’s listen well too — first and foremost to Him!
Then let’s be the woman in the crowd who draws others out.
And as the homeschooling or post-school clamour begins and as our husbands walk in from work, let’s give our loved ones our attention.
Let’s model and teach humility and respect through the discipline of listening.
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