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Tips for Being a Good Listener

A person who practices care and kindness strives to be a good listener. Most of us are so conscious of ourselves — our ideas, our answers, our experiences — that when someone starts talking, we connect their words with similarities in our own life. Then, immediately, we are intent on telling our own thoughts as quickly as they come to mind, and in so doing, we step on the other person's story. We have stopped listening!

Good listening includes talking a little — but not too much!

You encourage the speaker by your simple words, sounds, and gestures that indicate you are paying attention to what is being said. Pure silence can be confusing, so react enough to indicate your awareness of what is being said or shared, but don't try to tell your story, or solve the person's problems for them.

Relaxation and modifying our need to give answers and solve problems is vital to listening. Later . . . later . . . when we have listened long enough, and deeply taken note of what the speaker is experiencing emotionally, we may be able to offer some words. And, by then, we may see how shallow and superficial our earlier solutions or answers would have been.

We may now move on, having done much by doing little. We might suggest, challenge, confront or offer some idea that is appropriate; but taming the tongue is not a small accomplishment.

A reader responded to my comments posted last week by saying, "So true. I find myself thinking of my response, and not paying attention to what is being said." To restate my emphasis of last week, listening is NOT easy. It's a lot easier to say something than to be quiet. It is much easier to say much, than to say only a little.

James 1:19 — "Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak."


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