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Develop the Art of Listening

  • Steve Diggs Personal Finance and Life-Skills Coach
  • 2011 1 Jan
  • COMMENTS
Develop the Art of Listening

If relationships with others mean a lot to you (but sometimes they seem to elude you), you'll find this helpful: become a beautiful listener.

When someone speaks to you, stop and listen — really listen. This little habit will make our all-too-short lives far richer.

Try to listen without thinking about what you're going to say next. Avoid "one-ups-manship" listening. This is when I listen to you while thinking of a response that will make whatever you just told me sound less important. The goal as a "one-ups-manship" listener is to "best" you at your own story. I speak on this habit in the Retooled and Refueled Seminar. It's a product of something called E-G-O.

For instance, you step up to me at a party and tell me about how you just found the deal of a lifetime on that Corvette convertible you've always dreamed of -- at half the market value. Then, instead of responding to what you have just said with kudos and "at-a-boys," I feel compelled to tell you about the time I bought a Jaguar (which I've never done) directly from Mario Andretti (whom I've never met) for less than the price of a Chevy Malibu (although I've never met him, I'm certain Mario isn't a fool).

The reason people talk to other people isn't always just to communicate data. It is also to communicate emotion, illicit empathy, and to receive those much needed, "Wows!" When I let my ego drive the conversation, it defeats the purpose of communication — and deflates the person speaking to me.

If you want to be a good listener, there are a few basic things to learn.

First, it's not about you. This conversation is about the other person. Allow her to be in the driver's seat. Don't look rushed. Turn your body in that person's direction and add a smile to your face (unless it's really sad news at which time a more somber look might be appropriate). Maintain good eye contact (this brings to mind the old proverb, "The eyes are the windows to the soul"). Nod your head affirming that your heart is really hearing what the other person is saying.

Second, probe with questions — lots of them. When the person slows down, don't use it as an excuse to turn the conversation to yourself — or to run for the door. Instead, think of the person talking to you as a large, soaked bath towel. Wring that towel for all it's worth. When there's a lull in the conversation, ask another penetrating question like, "So, did you meet Mario personally?" That will achieve exactly what your teller needs. It will encourage further conversation which is the healing balm of human relation.

When you think about it, this is exactly what a good psychiatrist does. You know, the type who charges $180 an hour. He listens. Then he asks a question. Then he listens some more.

I have a very close friend who went through a bout of depression. I suggested that she visit a psychiatrist for whom I have a lot of respect. Over the months, she told me several times, "I don't understand how he's helping me because he never tells me what to do — he mostly just listens." But somehow that listening, combined with just the right mixture of probing questions, seemed to help. Of course there was also some medicine and plenty of prayer. But, thankfully, today this young woman is living a happy, normal life again.

Third, become a public relations expert for the teller. In most cases it's wisest not to repeat the other person's story unless you have a clear sense that it would honor him. Instead, bring the person over to another cluster of friends, and say, "You've got to hear Jeff's story!" Jeff will beam. Others will be enlightened. And you will be Jeff 's hero.

Fourth, despite what I said above, it is sort of about you. If you become nothing more than a "gimmick listener" you'll only harm yourself and be the worse for it. You will find yourself listening, but not listening. You'll simply be gaming the other person like an animal does its quarry. Become an emotional participant. Learn to live the experiences you listen to vicariously. Learn to, "laugh with those who laugh and cry with those who cry" (Romans 12:15). Then, my friend, you will be a part of the family of humanity.

February 1, 2011

Steve Diggs is best known for 2 internationally acclaimed seminars that he has presented at nearly 500 churches. Steve can be reached through either of the websites below, or call him at 615-300-8263:

No Debt No Sweat! Christian Money Management Seminar teaches God's people how to use God's money God's way. More at www.NoDebtNoSweat.com.

ReTooled & ReFueled: The Essential Christian Life-Skills Seminar shows Christians how to live for the beautiful bye and bye—while dealing with the nasty now and now.  More at www.RetooledAndRefueled.com.