The older I get, the more I realize how much people appreciate being heard. I remember some people from my childhood that had a reputation for talking incessantly. They always seemed to be talking to someone, but rarely did people seek them out. They usually had to chase people down to talk to them.
I also remember several quiet, meek, sweet people who were always in a conversation. Some would wait in line for a chance to talk to these people. It took a long time for me to realize that these ladies and gentlemen were not popular simply because they were pleasant to talk to – they were popular because they were good listeners.
We have all had the unpleasant experience of trying to talk to someone who was not interested in what we were saying. How did that experience make you feel? Personally, I feel a little foolish when I try to share things with people who are looking over my shoulder, at their watch, or out the window. Furthermore, I’m less likely to want to take the time to listen to them bare their souls after being ignored. At the same time, I have to keep a check on myself to make sure I’m not doing that to others.
Listening to others is the ultimate way to affirm their existence. Being yelled at is less insulting than being ignored. Listening to people share about their life, even if the topic isn’t that enthralling to you, is a gift to them. We all want to be heard. We all want to matter. We can tell people how much they matter by choosing to hear them or we can send them the message that their lives really aren’t that important by daydreaming, yawning, or constantly interrupting them.
One thing my closest friends have in common is their ability to listen. A dull person who knows how to effectively use his or her two ears will have more true friends than an exciting person who won’t shut up. One sided relationships usually tip over and crash. Lasting relationships involve two people who care, listen, and understand.
When you get married, you will need to be prepared to do a lot of listening. It is essential for a healthy marriage. If your wife is shut down every time she opens her mouth or if your husband can’t get a word in edgewise because you keeping thinking up new thoughts to speak, communication will break down. Your spouse will start to think, “What’s the point in talking?” if he or she is never heard.
I mentioned earlier that I am less enthusiastic about listening to someone talk that has just completely ignored me. This principle is especially true in marriage. When you continually ignore your spouse, you actually teach them to stop communicating with you.
So, start improving your listening skills now. When you sit down with a friend for lunch, ask him or her a question instead of beginning the meal with your own agenda. Be interested in what others have to say and don’t interrupt them (please understand that I am preaching to myself as much as anyone else!). Seek out opportunities to lend an ear to someone in need. In short, shut up and listen.
Sometimes people seek out counselors simply because they are desperate to be heard. Good listening skills are a blessing to any marriage, so it is worth your while to sharpen those skills now.
How has your life been blessed by someone who chose to listen to you?