It’s hard to listen, and even counselors struggle with it at times, but listening pays great dividends in our relationships. Take the time to examine how well you listen, and refocus your efforts on listening more and talking less. You may be amazed that your frustration level will diminish, and your fondness will grow.
At one time or another, you’ve probably heard someone say in a dismissive tone, “I’m just not a good listener!”
Whether we get distracted by what we plan to say next, are easily offended by unfair criticism, or feel overwhelmed by needing to find the right words to reply, quality listening is complicated.
Add to that the fact that we tend to view ourselves better than we are, and we tend to view others as worse than they are, and quality listening becomes a complicated dynamic that many fail to adequately understand.
However, if we are going to pursue a habit of loving listening in our relationships, we must heed the many warnings about lousy listening from Proverbs. Failing to listen is not a laughing matter.
The previous post described four benefits of loving listening. However, Proverbs also gives us four warnings or results if we fail to listen. We undermine our effectiveness and damage our relationships when we don’t listen well. Lousy listening dishonors God and those around us.
1. Lousy Listeners are Prideful (Prov. 18:2)
Proud people don’t need the details; they already know the answer. In your conversations, how certain are you that you are right?
Some people go through life constantly correcting others, presuming to be an expert on almost everything, yet failing to realize they are more like the people they critique than they are different. Those around them feel unwanted and unneeded because their opinion is never heard; the proud person simply tells them what they should do.
Proverbs 18:2 says we imitate the fool if we don’t choose loving listening, and we allow our pride to disregard others around us. Pride becomes destructive in relationships, and most of the time, the proud person has no idea that the “proud” shoe fits them nicely.
If you are spending far more time talking than listening, pride is often at the root, and this warning may be one that you need to take seriously.
2. Lousy Listeners Look Foolish (Prov. 18:13)
In high school, I worked at one of the top restaurants in the country. They took great pride in their service, and their food was consistently excellent. It always amazed me how many of their top servers could go to a table, take 4-6 dinner orders with no pen or paper, and enter the order correctly, all from memory. It took extraordinary listening and memory in a noisy dining room of 400 guests. However, some servers took notes and wrote it all down. The owner didn’t care; he just wanted to ensure that the details were heard correctly and that the food reflected the customer’s wishes. Bringing out the wrong order or getting the details wrong made us all look foolish and was not tolerated.
When we are lousy listeners, we will often get the details wrong, and we, too, can look foolish. Proverbs 18:13 reminds us that a wise man will listen first and speak after.