Listening and Understanding

listeningToday I have two quotes:

  • “A good listener is not only popular everywhere but after a while he knows something.” – Wilson Mizner
  • “It is better to understand a little than to misunderstand a lot.” – Anatole France

One of the difficulties most people have when listening to another is the tendency to stop listening and to start thinking about how to reply, especially if the reply is a rebuttal. The problem that develops is that the listener may not truly understand the speaker’s perspective and rationale, which leads to greater difficulty in reaching a point of agreement between the two.

Years ago I learned a technique simply called “active listening.” In an Effectiveness Training seminar, participants were divided into teams of two. One participant was given a written script with directions to read the script to the other participant, verbatim. The listener was instructed to try to repeat as nearly as possible the exact words that had been read.

While the exercise seemed rather sophomoric at the time, it worked quite well. The listener repeated the words of the reader, who instinctively nodded his head in appreciation for the fact that the listener actually listened. The reader went on to speak in greater detail about the topic of the written script. Before long there was a greater sense of mutual respect, simply because the listener was actually listening and understanding instead of trying to formulate a response.

While not a magic wand, the art of active listening is essential to understanding. Agreement often comes from understanding, even if it takes the form of agreeing to disagree.

God is glorified when people communicate with one another with love and respect. Listening and understanding are essential components of that process!