We all want to be the fastest, smartest, prettiest, most influential, or insert your superlative here. We want to be the best. But, rarely do you ever hear a person say, “I want to be a great listener.” Let’s be honest it is more often than not our least refined skill. No one’s priority is to be known as one of the best listeners one has ever known.
But I have found that the greatest speakers, smartest professors, and most influential people you will ever meet happen to be impeccable listeners. They listen to sound advice, good council, instructions, desires, and needs. They listen to every detail. They don’t just listen to respond. They listen to absorb and process the information being communicated to them so they can respond in the best way possible.
I will admit I am one of those who struggles to put the world around me (and the world in my head) on hold long enough to listen to a friend, family member, or coworker especially when there is so much that needs to be done. I use to tell myself I can listen and work. I am, after all, a great multitasker. Sometimes I’d even convince myself that they just need someone to talk at and verbally process their thoughts. They don’t need me to answer their questions, so I don’t actually have to pay attention to the details. I was so wrong…
I had to change my thinking. I have to remind myself that what they are saying is important. It may not always be urgent but it is definitely important. It may not pertain to any of the matters at hand but it may matter later. Most importantly even if it doesn’t matter to me, it matters to them.
The Lord knows this is not something that comes naturally. James 1:19 says, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” He doesn’t just say be a good listener. He helps us by telling us to be slow to speak and slow to anger – two actions that generally keep us from listening well. We have to make a conscious effort to listen.
Many misunderstandings could be avoided if we would take the time to listen. Our loved ones would feel more important. We would receive instructions that help us better perform our responsibilities. We would glean more wisdom from those who possess it. And if all of those weren’t good enough reasons, the best reason is this: we would hear what God has to say in so many areas of our lives.
So I encourage you to get big ears. Strive to be a great listener. Learn to find importance in what others are saying. It isn’t always going to be interesting and it isn’t always going to be easy. But, it will be worth it.