“For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment.”
How you listen affects what you hear. As I have said several times in this series, effective listening requires an open heart and a disciplined mind.
The heart challenge is that we tend to be self-oriented. We get preoccupied with our own ideas and opinions and fail to listen carefully to the perspective of others. This makes us quick to dismiss the opinion of other people and just as quick to defend our own point of view.
The mental challenge is that the mind processes information 4X faster than the average person speaks. This mismatch in processing speed can cause our mind to drift away from truly listening and hearing what someone else is saying. The result is we tend to listen to our own inner commentary more than we listen to the other person.
Here are four mental obstacles that get in the way of listening:
- Focusing on what you want to say next.
The other person is talking, and instead of listening, you are thinking about and preparing what you want to say in response. You aren’t listening; you are simply waiting to talk. This is an easy trap to fall into, and it happens with great frequency. In order to listen, you must develop the discipline to tune out the voice in your head.
- Jumping to conclusions because you assume you understand.
It’s easy to rush to a conclusion without listening and getting the info that matters. Sometimes you think you understand, when in fact you don’t. There is almost always more to the story. Don’t assume. Your job is to listen and seek to understand.
- Critiquing the person rather than seeking to understand.
People have quirks, habits, and idiosyncrasies when they communicate, and it is easy to fixate on those mannerisms, get distracted, and fail to listen. It’s also tempting to mentally criticize and critique the person’s message rather than seeking to understand the message. Keep your heart open and your mind disciplined. Listening comes first; evaluation comes second.
- Thinking about something other than what the person is saying.
Let’s face it, our minds wander and we are easily distracted. Remember, our minds process information faster than people can speak. Further, there are times when we just are not very interested in what the other person is saying.
This phenomena happens in marriage quite frequently: The wife is talking, but the husband isn’t interested in what she’s talking about. It works the other direction, as well. The husband is talking, but the wife isn’t interested in what he’s talking about.
The solution for these listening traps is found in what we addressed in yesterday’s devotional: caring. Make the choice to be interested in what your spouse is saying. A critical message is that caring isn’t something you feel, it is something you do. Find out what is important to your spouse and make it important to you in a way they can feel it.
Caring isn’t about how you feel; it’s about how you make your spouse feel.
I hope you find these insights helpful!