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Talking and Listening

    I read a one-liner yesterday:

    Some people talk because they love talking: others talk because they have something to say!

    The wisdom of this has been mulling around in my head. Talking is essential for communication. We all need to know, however, when it is timely, and when unnecessary. Such a lot of our talking is about surface issues. Often we talk about things which are predictable, stating the obvious, or going over the same old subjects again and again. Our talk can be straight out boring!! Dialogue is essential, but often we fall into mindless monologue. Some folk will happily spend two hours on a phone call, hang up and immediately ring another friend and tell them exactly the same information! Many of us are so afraid of silence that we must fill every silent space with words, even if we know that we have nothing of import to say. We can devour people with words, words, words.

    Yes, it is vital that we communicate our feelings, our opinions and our deepest thoughts to significant others. But the greatest communicator of all time, Jesus Christ, was not verbose. He had a genius for simplifying extremely complex ideas into simple statements. He knew when to speak and when to remain silent. Much of his dialogue with others included questioning, followed by LISTENING! Yes, Jesus spent more time engaging with others by listening than by speaking. His questions were open ones, like "How?" and "Why?", which then enabled the other to respond freely, while Jesus listened.

    Listening frees us to be available to the other. As we remain silent, we give our undivided attention to what the other person is thinking, feeling, communicating. Our mind must be still, not racing ahead to what WE want to say next, as soon as we can fit a word in. Our body must also be still, and not distracting to the person we are listening to, but showing in a non-verbal way that we are giving our undivided attention. We need to learn to wait for that word which shall be offered to us in the silence. Then we can take time for reflection to ensure that we respond to what we have been told in an encouraging, thoughtful and non-judgmental way.

    I am convinced that many folk seek out professional counselors simply because they know they will receive a listening ear. Healing flows when we feel we have truly been listened to. People are willing to pay big money for this skill, yet each one of us can offer it as a gift to our friends and family. Listening is one of the most precious gifts we can give to anyone ~ and truly taking the time to hear as well as listen.

    Many wise folk have discovered the value of listening and of allowing spaces of silence in conversation. Here are a few quotes:

  • Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire to be with another which both attracts and heals ~ J. Isham.

  • Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force...When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. Ideas actually begin to grow within us and come to life...When we listen to people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other...and it is this little creative fountain inside us that begins to spring and cast up new thoughts and unexpected laughter and wisdom. ...Well, it is when people really listen to us, with quiet fascinated attention, that the little fountain begins to work again, to accelerate in the most surprising way ~ Brenda Ueland.

  • The greatest compliment that was ever paid me was when one asked me what I thought, and attended to my answer ~ Henry David Thoreau.

  • An essential part of true listening is the discipline of bracketing, the temporary giving up or setting aside of one's own prejudices, frames of reference and desires so as to experience as far as possible the speaker's world from the inside, step in inside his or her shoes. This unification of speaker and listener is actually an extension and enlargement of ourselves, and new knowledge is always gained from this. Moreover, since true listening involves bracketing, a setting aside of the self, it also temporarily involves a total acceptance of the other. Sensing this acceptance, the speaker will fell less and less vulnerable and more and more inclined to open up the inner recesses of his or her mind to the listener. As this happens, speaker and listener begin to appreciate each other more and more ~ M Scott Peck, MD'. (www.heartquotes.net).

    Let us all work together at becoming better at listening. Oh, yes, we do need to speak! But I love the Scripture which reminds us "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver". The essence of speaking is to say enough, but not become superfluous. Jesus engaged in conversation which always consisted of fitly spoken words, combined with a wonderful ability to listen. Conversation then becomes a true connection between people.

    © 2004 Christine M. Jones

    Droplets from Life
    I would love to hear your responses, comments or input in any way. Please contact me at: christinesdroplets@yahoo.com.au

    Christine Jones is married to David. She has two adult children and precious grandchildren. She has worked for many years as a school teacher/librarian, and written children's material for several years in her 'spare time'. She loves nature, music and the theatre.

    John Mark Ministries