I believe some of the best advice that can ever be given is to tell someone to just listen. Listening is such a simple thing, yet one that eludes so many. Unfortunately, we undervalue listening and put more value on ourselves, what we’re doing, and what we have to say. What we’re really doing, when we fail to listen, is missing an opportunity to grow. To grow in experience, wisdom, and relationships.
Here’s a simple little story about one of Santa’s helpers who learned the value of listening, from a little kid. And guess how he learned…he listened…
Listening – at Christmas and always
A few years after I left my secondary school in Manchester, I was invited to help out with the school’s Christmas Fair and I decided to have a go at being Father Christmas. I had recently grown my first full beard and thought that I would enter into the role by rubbing flour into my growth. Though I say it myself, I looked rather splendid and certainly I attracted lots of custom.
I was enjoying myself enormously, bringing a sense of magic to so many young children, but I was mystified by one young boy who paid for a second visit and then astonishingly for a third. The presents on offer were really pretty pitiful, so I asked him why he was coming to see me so often. He answered simply: “I just love talking to you”.
It was then that I realized that, in many households, parents do not encourage their children to talk and really listen to them. This was a lesson that I have taken with me throughout my life. So, at home, at work, socially, always encourage family, friends, colleagues to talk about themselves and their feelings – and really listen.
Author: Roger Darlington
Opportunities to Listen Better
Here are three common scenarios that seem to affect so many relationships, simply by not listening:
1. Talking with your spouse – How many times do you talk with your spouse without your phone in your hand? Our cell phones, as great as they may be, are a huge distraction. When talking with your spouse, put your phone away.
What I do: Most of the time, I only pick up my phone when my wife is on hers.
2. While watching TV – How many times have you been watching TV when your child comes in to tell you something, important to them, about a game? Did you vaguely listen, nodding and faking interest, hoping to just get back to your show? What they have to say may not be very important to you, but their interests are very important to them.
What I do: I pause the show I’m watching. Most of the time, the small chats like that only take a couple minutes, but they mean everything to your kid who wants to be heard.
3. While working – Many people are working from home now, and their kids are home too, especially during COVID. This means your spouse, child, or someone special in your life WILL interrupt you while working. Do you give them your fake attention, barely listening to them, all the while trying to focus on your work? Don’t get me wrong…work is important, but relationships can be strengthened or weakened during these times.
What I do: My family often comes into my office, while I’m right in the middle of work. If I’m on a call, they’ll see that, and walk back out. But if I’m not on a call, they want to tell or ask me something. I happily give them my undivided attention. I spin my chair around, and lean in to what they’re saying. These times only last a few minutes, but showing them I care, and taking the time for them, is remembered and valued for a long time.
The ability to listen is a gift we’ve been given, but rarely used to it’s potential. Most people are more interested in what they’re doing or how they’re going to respond rather than actively listen to what is being said. A common saying is that we’ve been given two ears and one mouth, because we are encouraged by God to listen twice as much as we speak. Taking the time to listen to a loved one is all it takes to strengthen a relationship. No, every conversation isn’t life changing, but each is important as we’re building a habit of showing the ones we love, that we love them. And we do that simply by listening.
If you want to improve your relationships, pay attention to your loved ones. This post gave you three common scenarios that tend to trap many of us. Hopefully I was able to get my point across to you. I hope you were listening.