When last you joined us–in Part 1–I had explained why, though I compete for “Most Dysfunctional Functional Person in the World” (I’ve never actually won, but I’ve come in 4th like six times), I also have the crazy privilege of profoundly influencing people, sometimes being one of the most influential people in their lives…and not even in a bad way.
After writing several posts and series on how people like us (go ahead, define that) survive and seek to thrive and trust God in the world, I’m taking the bold step of trying a series on what I do right. That’s what this is. I think I’m special only in the sense that God has worked in my life in unusual ways and taught me some thing that appear to be a bit off the beaten path. If they help others, that’s worth sticking my neck out and offering them.
I don’t know if I’m a better listener than others. I do know I listen a lot (I’m also rumored to talk a lot, which means I must spend a lot of time with people). Listening is both easy and crazy hard work. I’ve given a lot of thought to listening: what it is, how it works, why so many people suck at it, and how transformative it can be in people’s lives.
- (and also 2., 3., etc.) Care
The difference between merely waiting for someone to stop talking and listening to them is caring what they say. Caring what people say is one of the most practical ways we can love them. Christianity is really big on love, since the founder kept commanding things like “Love one another as I have loved you.”
[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Here’s a crazy thing: Jesus was a great listener.[/pullquote]
Here’s a crazy thing: Jesus was a great listener. The wisest person ever to live listened well to others. Had the most important things to say in history, listened well to others. My favorite example is that on the way to heal Jairus’s daughter, Jesus stopped when the woman in the crowd touched him. She was already healed physically. But he wanted to identify her, look her in the eye, hear her story, and then send her in peace, proclaiming to her and everyone else that her faith had healed her. Jesus healed her emotionally and socially. He showed her that she mattered. He loved her by listening.
People generally know if you are paying attention or not. Paying attention is an investment in another human being. It’s called “paying” for a reason. It requires concentration, setting aside anything more urgent-feeling, and quieting the voices shouting “Squirrel!” and “I’m hungry,” and “Ooh, she’s cute.” Eye contact helps. Active listening, i.e. asking real questions and giving ongoing verbal and non-verbal cues that indicate we are tracking, these demonstrate that we care what the other person says and help us succeed at listening, at the same time.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]For me, real listening means finding a way to connect with what the other person is saying.[/pullquote]