Listening is a challenging communication issue we face every day. Often we assume that communication is only about how we talk to one another. Because we want to know how to help people better understand what we are trying to say we take communication classes and public speaking and speech classes. These, it is thought, will help me say what I want to say so people can understand me better.
This point is often verbalized in many ways, such as:
“He won’t listen to me!”
“Talking to her is like talking to a brick wall!”
“I don’t think he gets me!”
“Why can’t she understand?!”
NEWS FLASH: Communication involves more than talking.
It could be that people who talk when no one seems to be listening could be talking to themselves or talking on a bluetooth cell phone headset….or they are talking to people who aren’t there. Without a listener, talking does not make a lot of sense except to the one who is doing it.
Listening problems are not unique to western culture. It seems to be a part of the nature of man to want others to realize that they have something important to say. Good examples of poor listening skills can be found in the Bible and were a constant problem for a God who wanted to create a people who would listen to His instruction and do what He said.
Indeed, one would think that when God Himself spoke, everyone would listen. But, in Psalm 81:8 God is quoted: “…if you would only listen to me, Israel!”
Even God Almighty struggles with people who will not listen to Him…which is quite amazing to me, really. If I were God I am not so sure I would be quite so patient! When God’s own people would not listen to Him He made it clear that He would not exercise judgement upon them for one reason and one reason alone: “For I am God, and not a man— the Holy One among you. I will not come against their cities” (Hosea 11:9).
Something about God’s nature caused Him to go even further to communicate His love so He took on the form of a man in Jesus Christ (e.g., John 3:16). Yet, in exasperation with His own disciples, Jesus said: “Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?” (Mark 8:17-18). Translation: “You still don’t get it!?”
Michael Card: “Will You Not Listen?”
I’m reminded of so many parents who have been given a front row seat to God’s pain and frustration with Israel. Who hasn’t struggled to deal with a family member or close friend who just does not listen and, therefore, does not understand. Or when a loved one does listen and understand yet chooses to disregard the words of others who love and care about them.
If it were not so sad it would almost be humorous when these who will not listen are heard to complain, at the same time, that no one listens to them.
The bottom line, for me, is that listening is as important a skill–if not more important–as talking. One of the things I truly appreciate about the PREP system of communication training is the stress they place upon the skill of active listening.
It doesn’t take long to distinguish between the person who listens from the one who will not. The evidence for which approach to life works best will be found in the consequences that follow.