I can hear my mother still to this day yelling, “Are you listening to me?” Being the single mother of 5 children left her without much patience. I believe much of her frustration as a single, struggling mom, was she felt that no one heard her.
Mom worked all kinds of jobs to try to provide for us kids, so she was not home much. We pretty much raised ourselves. My 4 brothers and sisters were just about as unruly as children left to their own devices could get.
When Mom finally made a pit stop at the house, she would find it in shambles. Then, with the frustration of a mother trying to do her best, but failing miserably, she would simply lose it. “Are you kids listening to me?” The truth of the matter was, we weren’t listening to a word she was saying. We were too busy having a blast doing our own thing.
I once read a story of a pastor who was asked by a woman in his church for a few minutes of his time. The pastor agreed to meet with her and while they talked, she said flatly to the pastor, “My father molested me when I was a little girl”. Without missing a beat, the pastor said, “I believe you.” The woman was shocked! She couldn’t believe that someone had finally believed her.
Through tears she said, “For years I have tried to tell my family members, but no one would listen to me”. It was such a relief to finally have someone who listened and believed her. The pastor asked, “What can I do for you?” “Nothing she replied, I just needed someone to listen and believe me.”
How sad, that little girl carried such pain and shame all those years and had no one to listen to her. I have found that listening is a great way of helping people. As a pastor, I am often asked to do counseling. I find myself doing more listening than counseling. I believe much of the time the person is just trying to find someone who will listen to them.
Listening is not something that comes easy for me. I’d rather be talking. I love to talk. As I get older however, I’m learning to listen more. At least long enough to hear what the other person is trying to tell me.
As I am writing this, my wife has come into the office a total of 7 times to tell me about her day. It takes every bit of my energy to make myself stop doing what I am doing and focus on what she is telling me. I’m careful to listen to every detail, as she often gives a quiz if she feels I’m not listening. “Now what did I just say?” she’ll ask.
People with high energy find slowing down enough to really listen, challenging. Most people tend to speak about 300-400 words a minute, but can only listen to 180 words a minute. If you do the simple math here you find that of the 300-400 words a minute you speak, people are only listening to 180 of them.
It takes extra energy to listen to people. You have to practice it. You have to work at it. As leaders, we need to know that people will be drawn to us simply because we listen to them. Make it a point this week to find yourself in a conversation with someone where they are doing all the talking and you are doing all the listening.