This afternoon, a conservation officer from the Ministry of the Environment came to our beach to take a look at the lake, which continues to be a disheartening and murky brown color. The neighbours and I supplied him with a water sample, plenty of pictures, a tour of the waterfront, legitimate concerns and a free trip north about three concessions to the super farm where all the run-off originated. We all appreciated his thoroughness, patience and genuine concern but his greatest contribution were his ears – he genuinely listened…a skill that does not come naturally to most of us. He wasn’t in a hurry, he maintained eye contact with us and give us his undivided attention, he made sure that he understood what we were saying and he valued our thoughts and opinions. He listened well and as a result, he was able to give some good feedback and communicate a “plan of attack.”
Ahhh…. to be listened to…we all want it and we all definitely know when it’s not happening. You know that glaze-in-the-eye look when the person looks right past you? Or how about the person who interrupts and finishes your sentence? Of course, we have all experienced someone’s body language that clearly communicates disinterest and the unspoken reality that there is something or someone far more important than you. If you take a good look around, you’ll quickly see that most people listen to reply, rather than to understand.
I was at the conference many years ago and a Jewish friend of mine was presenting a seminar about communication in marriage. She shared some wise words that her parents taught her all through her childhood – “no one is as deaf as the man who will not listen.” Wise, indeed. Listening is an art…it doesn’t come naturally…it takes practice and commitment.
A few years ago, I was teaching a Grade 8 Science class and the students were put in groups to discuss some lab results. As I scanned the classroom, my eyes landed on a girl who was showing great frustration towards her group. Before I had a chance to intervene, she threw her arms up in total disgust and yelled, “You’re not listening to me! You need to listen COMPLETELY! I totally agree. We all need to learn how to listen completely.
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. James 1:9