Be Quiet to Listen
When loving my neighbors through asking questions to learn, I’m hold my thoughts and letting the new information sink in. I step into that posture of humility and allow what I hear to sit for a bit, though my impulse may be to jump in with solutions, opinions, and comebacks.
When someone is listening well, it conveys to the one speaking that they are the most important focus for the moment. Here’s what I’ve noticed about listening as I’ve embarked on this journey:
Listening requires our time. We can’t rush through the process with someone. We may be tempted to skip to the conclusion, the punch line, the moral of the story. But listening means being with someone as long as they need to talk.
Listening requires our attention. We’ve all experienced someone looking over our shoulder at a party when we’re having a conversation, seeing who else they might talk to. Eye contact and putting the phone away lets a person know we’re hearing what they’re saying.
Listening requires focus. We really can’t be hearing what another person is saying if we’re already thinking of our response. Resist being distracted by thoughts of what you could or should say.
Listening requires quiet. We must shut our mouths and give our neighbor the floor. Getting quiet is sometimes the most difficult, disciplined step of listening. We really must practice being quiet when we’re alone, before we can tackle it with the people right in front of us. Active listening means settling in and waiting to hear, whether we are waiting to give the person more space to complete a thought, or waiting to make space for the Holy Spirit to speak.
When we talk with our neighbors and are quiet to listen to their answers and observe the details of their lives, we find common ground. But when we allow enough space for quiet, we also find what I call “uncommon ground.” We get to what is different about us, which can begin to get us out of our comfort zones. What feels different catches our attention because it is less familiar, perhaps even intimidating. We can see these differences with more clarity when we are quiet enough to listen.
When has someone listened to you well? What did they do or not do that indicated you were getting their full attention?