You Listened. Now, Talk to Me

“Did you even hear what I just said?”

“Are you serious?”

“No, that’s not what I meant.”

“Why would you think that?”

I dove into the reasons that I believe people listen to others on Sunday.

Today, I want to explain some of the ways that I notice people responding and why.

“Not saying anything, says everything” Shane Parrish tweeted on February 26th.

From the book, The Lost Art of Listening by Michael P. Nichols, he explains five general ways that people respond.

These five ways are:

1. Advice
2. Criticism
3. Empathetic that closes conversation
4. Empathetic that opens conversation
5. Talking about yourself

Here is what the author of the book gave as some potential responses to the following statement

“I have had a terrible headache all day”

1. Maybe you should take some aspirin
2. Maybe you shouldn’t drink so much coffee
3. Gee, that’s a shame
4. Gee, that’s a shame, when did it start?
5. I’ve had a headache too, maybe it has something to do with the change in atmospheric pressure.

As you can see, there are different things we can say in response to someone, and to an extent, our response is affected by our motives for listening.

Are the doors open? Are you able to listen?

By providing advice, we may come off as insensitive or we may be received as simply uncaring. But, are we really that way? Maybe not. Maybe we are, and that’s another discussion.

By being critical, we may be received the same way. The speaker may think that we, the listener, don’t truly care and are not truly sensitive to what they have to say.

With the third response, speaking empathetically, are we really listening? Maybe, but we could say that to anything, and the speaker knows that. The speaker will more often than not get the vibe that we may not really care what they have to say.

What about the fourth response where someone responds empathetically and opens conversation? That shows concern, care, AND interest. Now, we give the speaker an opportunity to talk about what they really want to share with us.

Finally, responding to the speaker who was commenting on a headache by sharing your own feelings or experience, how does that make them feel? Maybe invalidated? Maybe like you do not really care? Maybe something else, but, likely responding in this fashion will not make the other person feel good.

We are all different, even if we experience the same things, we are different

A huge part of listening that the author of this book pushes and emphasizes is the ability to look past our interests and focus on the speaker.and on their interests.

In the situation above, we may not know why someone wants to tell us that they have a headache. Maybe they want to take it a deeper level. But, if we only respond with advice about the headache, thus fulfilling our personal interests or desires, how do we know that?

We need to give the speaker an opportunity to share what they want to.

We must look past our own intentions in the conversation and listen.

Listening, again, is not a talent, not an art, but a skill to be developed.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”
― Roy T. Bennett

Why do we listen? And, more importantly, do people see the reason that we listen to them?

What if they aren’t able to. What if they aren’t able to see why you are listening? What if they don’t take the time to ask why you are listening to them? They might never know.

Listening is NOT about us. Listening is about the other person. When someone wants to tell us something, we need to look past what we want to say and listen.

What if someone says something and it reminds us of something that we’ve been wanting to tell them? Wait.

How would you feel if all you want to do is share something with someone and they just tell you something that they’ve done? Neglected maybe? Ignored maybe? Unimportant maybe? Something else maybe?

If someone is sharing something with you and you think of something to share, maybe ask to interrupt and share what we want to talk about and ask if we can bring it up later.

We are the listener, we NEED to be patient and listen to what the speaker wants to say. I wrote before about the situation and creating the right situation and communicating in an effective way, but, listening and valuing the speaker is essential.

The Bible says in James 3 that the people who want to speak their mind, need to bury that desire. Wise and informed speech is the best way. James writes and says things that send messages such as:

Words have power.
Words matter.
Words can either be life-giving or life-crushing.

We all want to say what we’re thinking. But, we don’t always need to. That’s something that needs to be learned. Maybe we want to give advice. But, the person with a headache probably knows the advice we are going to give them, most people know that coffee can cause headaches.

What most people don’t know, is that everyone has something to say, and most people don’t share what they have to say. We need to show that we WANT to listen. One way to do that is to seek out what they want to say. One way to do that is to respond in a way that displays that.

Even though we may care so much when we give criticism, what if the person isn’t looking for that right now?

We should do two things
1.Listen for the right reasons
2.Respond in ways that open conversation and value the speaker
Listen first, think second, speak third.

And finally, we should treat people the way that they’d like to be treated, ask them what they’d like to hear from us if we don’t know, and always always always be ourselves, be true, and show them why we care.

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