Quick to Listen

It’s been some time since my last post introducing the Meditations of the Heart component of effective godly communication. I am sorry for that delay and hope to keep up a better pace as we continue to make our way through the 19:14 Model.

Did you give any thought to the practicing what I introduced in the last post? If you did, you should be quite ready to implement the steps I will present in the next four posts. The next four articles will answer the question, “How will I gain the understanding I need of others and their message to edify them and glorify God?”

Listen

Let’s begin with the first step: Listen. This step seems simple enough. We just have to listen. You are right, it is a simple step.  But it also seems to be very difficult to apply. Why do I say this? Because, people tend to be poor listeners. We tend to forget half of what we hear right after hearing it and that increases to 75% by the following day. We really need to listen better.

Listening is central to effective God-honoring communication. I call this approach to communication  Quick to Hear to emphasize the central nature of listening as suggested in the wisdom of James 1:19, which is sometimes translated “quick to listen.” Note that when we mention listen, we include taking in information from all five senses, not just hearing. We need to attend to what the other person is communicating to us verbally and non-verbally. Remember, the motivation to do this is the idea that the other person is going to tell us what we need to know to achieve our goals and objectives.

Active Listening

The type of listening we are talking about in this step is what some people refer to as active listening. The concept of active listening was developed about four decades ago. The active listening process involves much more than what I am suggesting in this step. Actually, active listening is very similar to the whole Mediations of the Heart process. Let me demonstrate by taking a quick look at what is called the SIER model of active listening (see the graphic below).

SIER Model of Active Listening
SIER Model of Active Listening

The SIER model is hierarchical. This means that you cannot conduct the higher process until you have done the lower process. This means that active listening begins with sensing. Sensing corresponds with our current step, Listen. As we work through the remaining three steps, Interpreting, Evaluating, and Responding, we are actively listening to the other person and our understanding will be improved. The SIER model shares the wisdom of James 1:19 in that it encourages us to be quick to listen and slow to speak (Responding).

We accomplish the same active listening within the Meditations of the Heart. These steps, however, are cyclical and not hierarchical. I find that a better way to use the process. It is something we must do over and over as we communicate with others.

Real Listening is Active Listening

If we are really listening to others, we are active in the process. Again, this whole Quick to Hear approach takes effort. The effort will pay off in the end, but we must put forth the effort.

And that effort begins with listening. If we are not carefully attending to the messages being sent by  others verbally and non-verbally, the remaining steps are just about useless. Listening provides the raw information we are going to work with in the remaining steps. Like in the intelligence field where I first developed this approach, listening provides the raw information that we are going to process into intelligence for ourselves. This intelligence is going to guide the words of our mouths later in the process, leading to achieving our goal.

So, we really need to listen.

Listen to Understand

We need to listen to understand and not simply listen to respond. Too often most of us are doing the latter.

When I presented this course in my seminars, I would ask my students to recall the first time they conducted an interview or led a meeting. I particularly suggest an interview or a meeting that was important and one for which they took some time to prepare. I then asked them the following question: “What were you thinking about right after you asked your first question or made your first comment?” The most common response to that question was, “my next question or comment.”

That is a perfect example of one of the problems we are seeking to overcome. We are so focused on our own questions and comments, we do not really listen to the other person’s message. We are missing out on the very information we need to move the conversation towards our goal. So, let’s commit now to change our paradigm from “listen to respond” to “listen to understand.”

Practical Exercise

It probably comes to no surprise that our practical exercise will be to listen. I want you to practice listening. But not just any listening, I want you to practice listening to understand. Take a few days to practice this. Pick a conversation and tell yourself that you are going to really focus on listening and not be too worried about what you say/do in response. Then, just listen…and engage all five senses in the process. See how much more information you gain in the process.

Good listening is not natural for most of us. It is a learned skill. So take some time to practice listening over the next few days. Feel free to share how it goes.

Be quick to hear and slow to speak,

rjm

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