One of my favorite scenes is in the movie ( The Wedding Crashers) starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn. Their characters are divorce attorneys. In this scene they are mediating a divorce between a couple, when the wife gets so angry she yells to the husband, “you shut your mouth when you’re talking to me!” I laugh every time I think of that scene. This comment makes no sense and of course was put in for comedy value, but as silly and unreasonable the comment may seem it has some truth, doesn’t it? Maybe the wife in this scene was trying to tell her husband to love her by listening to her?
How can you love somebody by listening?
My dear brothers and sister, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak… James 1:19
It is clear what James’s command in this verse is, instead of talking, listen. His emphasis here is not just to say listen a lot, but rather be ready and willing to listen first. James seems to be a little ahead of his time with this passage of scripture. There are studies that show speaking and listening uses the same part of the brain, so you cannot speak and comprehend what is heard at the same time. Below are some thoughts to consider as you try to listen first.
Sometimes people don’t want you to fix them or their problems, they simply want to be heard.
I learned this lesson in my first couple years of marriage. Every time my wife would come home and share her bad day or tell me something she was struggling with I would always try to have an answer for her or a quick fix to her problem. Once she was sharing about the bad day she was having, of course I having all the answers shared what I thought was a good fix to her problem, she paused and said: “why don’t you ever listen to me?” I was kind of shocked, I thought I was listening, but in her mind I was rushing ahead for a quick fix, when she just wanted me to hear her out and understand. All she wanted from me was a hug and me to say I hear you, not the fix I thought was best.
Try listening with the intention to understand, rather than listening with the intention to respond.
There seems to be a fear that if I try to understand somebody, that means I’m jumping on the side of their point of view or i’m going to change and think the way they do. Understanding somebody doesn’t have to change you or your point of view, it just simply helps you understand them. When somebody listens with the intention to understand me I feel valued, loved, and I want to contribute more.
Spend less time trying to be interesting and more time being interested.
It is my experience that the best conversationalists are ones that help others open up. I worked with a man named Larry for a few years. Larry was a leader with many people that worked under him, but he was a quite man. Larry had a gift of helping people open up. He would ask a question and then another and another, before you knew it he had people opening up about things they wouldn’t tell thier best friend! Larry was always more interested in the one he was talking to, more than he was concerned about being interesting. Question examples: Tell me your story. I’d love to hear more. How can I help? Eye contact, a straight posture, and even leaning in at times can help you appear interested, but questions show a person you’re hearing and you are present.
Hope this was helpful. Do you have ways you love by listening? I would love to hear about them.