I’m telling you up front that this blog today is a confession . . . so read on.
You’d think I’d know it by now. I’m 58 years old. I’ve been in ministry since 1981. I’ve had the privilege of graduate-level education that other believers around the world would love to have. I’ve worked alongside some of the most gifted, brilliant people I’ve ever known—brothers and sisters from whom I’ve learned much.
Still, I fall short in so many areas. Particularly today, I’m reminded that I don’t always listen well. Here are some signs that I still must work on listening:
- I’m often “listening” and working at the same time. My ears are slightly tuned in to something or someone, but my eyes are on my computer. It’s fairly obvious then that I’m not fully engaged in the conversation—regardless of whether I say otherwise.
- I’ve learned to drown out noise around me. I can focus on reading or writing with the TV on in the background and my computer playing a praise chorus at the same time. While that ability may suggest that I’m productive, it also suggests that I can probably drown out the wrong noise at times.
- I sometimes have to say to someone, “Would you mind saying that again?” The question may sound like I simply want clarification, but the truth is that I’m likely saying, “I wasn’t listening as closely as I should have been.”
- I have a tendency to want to propose solutions without getting enough data about the problem. It’s easy for me when counseling others, for example, to want to talk more than listen and to respond quickly rather than patiently. Sometimes I learn that I’ve been answering questions the other person isn’t asking.
- My mind’s continually moving in multiple directions. It feels like there’s always something else to finish, some other assignment to grade, some other goal to reach. My phone tells me that emails and texts keep coming—and all of these things bouncing around in my head make it difficult for me to concentrate on listening.
- Sometimes my wife has to say to me, “Are you listening to me?” She always asks the question sweetly, but I’ve learned it’s actually a statement framed as a question. She wants me to know that I need to lay everything else aside and listen to her. She’s right.
What really bugs me today is that I’ve written about this topic in the past—as you can see below—yet I’m still learning. Apparently, I not only don’t listen well to others at times, but I also don’t even listen to my own advice sometimes. That’s hardly the best way to lead.
Other posts about listening: