Listening is Harder than Speaking

We have biological mechanisms that vibrate when soundwaves reach them. The sensation is hearing and if the mechanisms work, they vibrate with all sound.  That means that the phrase, “I didn’t hear you” is not valid unless someone is deaf.  Hearing is natural, consistent, dependable, and automatic.

LISTENING is a completely different matter.  “I wasn’t listening” is what we mean when we say that we didn’t hear someone.  We have plenty of reasons for not listening: we’re distracted, busy, tired, uninterested, insensitive, or a host of other circumstances.  Sometimes we don’t listen because we have heard something repetitively and our habituation reflex has screened it out from conscious thought so that we DON’T respond.  (Think of the sound of air conditioning in a home–we screen it out because it’s a repetitive sound that has been deemed as inconsequential by our brains.)

So when we are trying to have conversations, especially with people that disagree with us, it’s hard work to listen.  We feel compelled to express ourselves, but we don’t feel an equal compulsion to listen and understand.  And that, friends, is why we have such a hard time finding solutions to problems.

That’s why James 1:19-20 advised us 2,000 years ago:

Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

I can’t express how many times I have been quick to anger because I wasn’t really listening.  I misunderstood, jumped to conclusions, or felt compelled to get my way.  If I had worked hard to listen, however, I could have avoided so much pain, both for me and for those who were on the receiving end of my words.

Listening is harder than speaking–and is our most important communication.  Take a breath.  Hold your tongue.  Listen well before you speak.  You’ll be glad you did.

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