Sunnuntai 23.9.2018
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Jeesus vastasi fariseuksille ja lainopettajille: "Taitavasti te teette tyhjäksi Jumalan käskyn, jotta voisitte noudattaa omia sääntöjänne." Mark. 7:9

Blog: How well can I listen?

in English 19.7.2018 06:59 | Päivämies-verkkolehti
I have often thought that speaking is more important than listening. When addressing a young couple during the marriage ceremony, I have often said: ”Speak to each other. Speaking is one of the building blocks of your marriage.” At the same time, however, I have reminded the newlyweds that they should also listen to each other. Otherwise speaking will be meaningless. But I guess I have made the mistake of assuming that listening is something automatic like breathing.
I once met a hospital patient who wanted to talk to me. When he noticed that I was not listening attentively, he got out of his bed, sat at the table, and asked me to sit opposite to him. We looked into each other’s eyes, and he spoke and spoke. I listened, nodded once in a while, and responded when he asked whether I understood what he was saying. I did not really know what to say. When he finished, he thanked me for having listened to him.

Like many others, I think I know how to listen. In reality, however, I often do not hear what the other person wants to say to me. When our children were little and came to tell me about something that was important to them, I was often deep in my thoughts and simply said, “yes”. My wife used to tell them that Daddy does not hear because he is thinking about his work. I was physically present but mentally absent.

Marital relationships often suffer if the spouses are unable or unwilling to listen to each other. Tensions may arise in workplaces if the boss does not understand what his subordinates are saying. According to a Finnish study published in 2007, nearly 30 percent of medical malpractice could have been prevented if there had been good staff–patient interaction, and if the staff had listened to the patient properly.

I recently read an interesting list of the most common obstacles to listening. The list had been compiled by an experienced researcher of spoken communication:

The first obstacle is that we listen to the other person for a moment and then begin to think about how we could respond to him. We no longer hear what the other person is saying because we concentrate on our response.

We may also listen through our preconceptions. Messages between people do not pass through empty channels, but the listener relates what he is hearing to his own knowledge, attitudes, and status. A good listener puts his own thoughts and opinions aside for the time of listening.

It is possible to listen effectively and extract information from the speaker, but otherwise be like a blank wall. When the speaker cannot elicit any visible reaction, he may feel that what he is saying is not important to the listener. He may therefore begin to say less, and the listener may fail to get the information he would like to elicit.

Listening only to the words can also be an obstacle to effective communication. A good listener recognizes the words but also the non-verbal messages: body movements, tones of voice, pauses, eye contact. They enhance the lexical meaning of what is being said.

The writer gave useful hints to listeners. Listen to all that the speaker has to say, think about it for a moment, and only respond then. Objective listening is difficult, almost impossible, but it is good to be aware of one’s own preconceptions. It is always good to listen with a genuine interest. That is possible if we seriously concentrate on listening.

When is listening difficult? At least if the listener is only interested in his or her own self and presumes to know what other people think and what they are like. A person with that attitude may feel no need to listen to others. 

We go to services specifically to listen. But I am sure I am not alone in finding my thoughts wandering during services. We may find ourselves thinking about quite ordinary matters. It is not always easy to listen.

God opens his word through the Holy Spirit. He gives the listeners ears to listen and a heart to receive His word. ”He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Rev.2:11). "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." (Rom. 10:17). When Lydia, the seller of purple goods, listened to Apostle Paul, ”The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” (Acts 16:14).

It sometimes happens that a person no longer understands God’s word. Jesus said that people may no longer bear to hear what He says. (John 8:43).

We can pray that our Heavenly Father would give us the gift of listening to God’s word and accepting it with faith. We can also pray for the gift of patience to listen to our spouses and children and all those near to us. Being heard makes us feel good, and listening helps us understand each other.

Source: Tuula-Riitta Välikoski, HS 16.1.2018

Text: Olavi Vallivaara
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen

You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
 


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