I have shared before that I am a terrible listener. It just keeps coming up. This morning I was thinking about it, praying, once again, for God to bolster my listening efforts on all fronts. As I was praying I had a thought. I struggle to listen without doing. I struggle to hear something and not want to attach some sort of advice, next step, or leading question.
This isn’t entirely a bad thing. It leads to some productivity, a catalyst for brainstorming, and I happen to think it’s great when it comes to offering Spiritual Direction. The problem is, it’s not really working at home.
When I get input, any type of information or question or just a comment, it generally automatically generates a list. It’s a list of questions, or thoughts in response to the thoughts shared, or a list of things that can get done, or maybe even a list of all the ways I disagree, but regardless I struggle to listen/receive without automatically pouring right back out. I struggle to listen, just to listen.
I totally think I’m not alone in this. In fact, I’m not sure most generative conversation doesn’t require a certain level of back and forth. A dialogue requires two, and healthy dialogue usually has equal back and forth. But sometimes I think I need to practice just listening.
Waiting for a meeting to start I was chatting with someone about teenagers. (Super typical topic for me these days.) They were sharing how when their daughters graduated high school they made a statement, “I will only give you advice when you ask for it.” Otherwise, they would just listen. They would wait until they heard something like, “Dad, what do you think?” before offering all the things they thought. Obviously there are certain scenarios where we really need to offer counsel or guidance, but honestly, consider how often you share what you think without being asked; or how often you aren’t really listening but more formulating next steps or next words you will deliver.
I want to listen better; to actually just listen.
Not everything needs a plan. Not every conversation has to have a next step. When my sons share something, it’s doesn’t always mean they need my advice. Sometimes sharing is simply just to share. Some conversations need to take-off and land. Others need to just fly. And ironically, recognizing which conversations need your knowledge dispensed, and which need you to just listen, will require…wait for it…listening to the Holy Spirit. More listening.
Let’s try to slow down in our conversations and pay attention to how well we are listening, just listening.