Last week, I read a book with some great thoughts on communication.
“That’s really good,” I thought. “I think I’m doing pretty well on some of these. I’m going to start practicing these tips right away!”
The next day, I ended up making a mountain out of a molehill because I jumped to conclusions about something, instead of listening to what was being said to me.
To make it worse, I was actually discussing these communication principles when the misunderstanding happened.
After I finally listened to what was being said to me, I realized that I was being silly. But why did it take 20 minutes for me to realize that?
All of us struggle with listening. You can know, intellectually, all kinds of great ideas and principles about communication, but it’s very difficult to put those things into practice! We get so caught up in what we want to say, that we don’t take time to understand others. We can jump to conclusions so quickly that we don’t really hear what’s being said to us. We can create frustration, hurt feelings, and resentment because we fail to listen to others.
Consider these two verses from Proverbs 18:
A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.
A foolish person doesn’t take any pleasure in understanding others. All he wants is to discover his heart; to tell what he thinks, share his ideas, explore himself. The fool, while he has no interest in learning or understanding others, is supremely concerned that others understand him! It’s easy to fall into this trap; how often do we find ourselves planning our response instead of listening to what’s being said to us? I know I am often more interested in being understood than I am in understanding others.
He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.
This is exactly what I did. I started answering and responding before I really understood what the other person was saying. I ended up just looking foolish, and needing to apologize. Our natural inclination is to emotionally react to things we may not like to hear instead of thoughtfully considering what is being told to us.
We can save ourselves a lot of trouble if we will listen to what others are saying. Steven Covey discussed this in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Habit number five is “Seek First to understand, Then to be understood.” We like to say, “Don’t Care to understand, Fight to be understood!” That mindset is what has gotten me into trouble more times than I would like to admit. Don’t be so focused on what you’re saying that you fail to really hear what’s being said to you. Listen up!