If anyone doubts the importance of listening, all we have to do is look in the mirror and notice the obvious; we all have two ears and one mouth. Yet, I know more people who prefer talking over listening.
One of our basic human needs is to be heard and understood. We want others to know who we are, respect us and like us. Taking the time that is required to listen to each other may seem like a noisy and arduous task, but it’s not. When we learn to stop, tune in both of our ears attentively and lean into the words someone is speaking, we start to form a natural habit of listening. Eventually, listening becomes the natural thing to do.
I know from personal experience that pausing long enough to give my full attention to someone makes me feel restless, especially with those who speak softly or slowly. But when I consider how important this person is, and when I remember the value of building relationships, then taking the time to listen becomes a priority. If I care enough about wanting to get to know someone, then I will also see the value of giving them the time they need to say what they need to say. Tuning into their words will no longer be a task, it will be a privilege.
I have a few people in my life with whom I’ve learned to confide in and they in turn, confide in me. We have grown comfortable with each other, built trustworthy relationships and are confident that our words will not be held against us. Recently though, that little circle has grown bigger for me.
If you really want to know someone, and understand them, if you want a heart to heart connection, then begin by listening. What they have to say may surprise you. That they’ve chosen you to share themselves with may also catch you off guard.
Since writing my book, A Heart’s Journey to Forgiveness, people seek me out. They want to share their stories of loss with me. They see me as someone who will listen, understand, and maybe even shed a little light on their personal pain. Listening to them I hear their pain and their sorrow. I count it an honor that they’ve chosen me to be their audience.
Listening carries with it a responsibility to care. Being indifferent to what others speak to us would be not only a tragedy, but also irresponsible.
Why bother to listen? Just look in the mirror. We’ve been given two ears for a reason.