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Lent Series

Listening to Understand

LISTENING TO OUR NEIGHBOR

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Listening to Understand

by Scott Stoner

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply. —Stephen Covey

One of the reasons I believe that deep, authentic listening is rare is that it is challenging to do. It takes time, discipline, intention, and effort to be fully present to another person when they are speaking to us. It is challenging not to be distracted. We have to truly focus our full attention on what they are sharing, working not to be drawn away by what is going on around us. We have to quiet ourselves internally, putting away our own thoughts and concerns for the moment. We have to listen with the intent to truly understand, instead of merely listening to reply. We have to avoid the temptation to steer the conversation back to our own lives and our concerns. And we have to offer the invaluable gift of our time and care.

Perhaps another reason we often avoid genuinely listening to one another, in addition to the intention, time, and effort it takes, is that there is a certain kind of vulnerability in truly listening.

When we genuinely listen to another person, our perspective may be changed, and we may gain a more profound respect for the person to whom we are listening. Interestingly enough, the words conversation and conversion share the same etymological root. To listen deeply and to enter into authentic conversation with another person creates the possibility that we may be changed. We risk being converted in some way when we engage in a conversation where we are committed to practicing attentive listening.When we listen to understand rather than simply reply, we create the opportunity for growth and change for ourselves, as well as for the per-son with whom we are connecting.

Making It Personal: What are your thoughts on the Covey quote that we often listen to reply rather than to understand? How does his quote speak to you personally? Can you think of a time when you listened deeply to someone and you were changed by what you heard? 

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