Posted tagged ‘listening skills’

Friend Listening

May 20, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  May 19, 2019

                              

Carol and I are returning from a European river cruise that was awesome and memorable. Being in the youngest 20% on the boat made us feel like 65 year old teenagers! Suddenly, as we travel home, we’re feeling a bit weathered!

Our friends, Dave and Robyn Hughes, joined us on the cruise. They now live in Bradenton, Florida, but a long, long…very long time ago Dave and I went to high school together, he performed the function of being my Best Man, and I performed his wedding ceremony.

It was good! It was needed! It was heart aching!

You see, Dave and Robyn’s oldest son, Brad, passed away two years ago this month. His death was the result of an unfortunate accident. Brad was in his mid-thirties at the time of his passing. When I received word of his death I called Dave and we talked for a few minutes, but being together on the cruise was a chance for us to talk face-to-face, laugh and cry, journey through the dark lonely walk, and renew our deep friendship.

He talked, I listened, asking a few clarifying questions as he retold the story, but mostly just listened. A friend is someone you can laugh with, but, more importantly, a friend is someone who stays on the path with you. The path is adorned with bright flowers at certain times, but also potholes of misery at other times. 

Dave needed to talk. Grief causes some people to clench their jaw muscles tight in firm anger and anguish, while other people need to talk through it. It is the honesty of grief that  reveals the loss, deep loss, and its effects on different people in different ways. Americans still live in the land of denial when a significant loss occurs. We so often are in fear of looking weak, but grief is not about who is strong and who is weak. Grief is about healing the wounds of loss.

All of us have, or soon will, experience loss in some way. For Carol and I, all of our parents are now deceased. It’s a tug on our hearts at any moment. A conversation from long ago breaks to the surface and Mom or Dad seems to be right there…but they aren’t. 

So Dave and I talked, and sometimes rested in the silence of our conversation. We told each other old stories that we’ve shared umpteen times already and pondered the questions that have no answers. 

Friendship is about listening. It’s about taking the hand of the other and leading him into the unrest, and it’s about helping him look ahead in the looming shadow of the past. It’s allowing the other to ask the questions of spiritual doubt and confusion without rushing to the shallowness of snappy conclusions. 

I miss my old friend! I’ll miss the opportunity to stand on the deck of the boat and listen to his sadness, and to retell the stories of the pranks we pulled on each other and others. We long for our next gathering, wherever that might be…God willing!

Being the Listening Church

February 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             February 5, 2017

                                    

In the New Testament letter of James he writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19, NIV) The church has, quite often, stuttered its way into deafness. Our loudness has clouded our hearing!

It’s a balance beam position to be in. On one hand the church is called to be the prophetic voice of God, speaking of hope and singing of God’s unwavering promises. And yet, like someone with a box of chocolates, the church has a hard time understanding that there is still a need for moderation, and we blabber all over ourselves.

Give a preacher a pulpit and he will build a church around it! What begins as divine opportunity escalates into an enterprise that we mistake for a movement!

It occurs to me that there are plenty of people willing to talk; even an overabundance of congregations willing to condemn and mandate…no matter their theological leanings. I’m just wondering if the church has lost its capacity to listen? The concern seems to be that if we aren’t speaking we aren’t saying anything, but perhaps if the church recovered its ability to hear that would speak volumes.

In a time of polarized populations, who is committed to keeping their ears unplugged? In a time of verbal venom who will, as James said, “be quick to listen?”

There are people that I avoid conversation with because they seem to be more interested in sharing lengthy diatribes than they are in whether or not I might have a thought. In admitting that I’m also confessing where many of us have holed-up! We reside in the shadows of quiet avoidance, fearful of expressing our beliefs and what it is that we really value.

Can the church regain its ministry of listening? To do so it must recommit itself to the urgency of mutual respect. Can the gathered saints sometimes agree to disagree?

My friend, Greg Davis, who passed away less than four months ago at the age of 41, would often get into political conversations with a woman named Terri Inloes, the librarian at the middle school he taught at. They disagreed more often than they agreed, but they always listened to one another, and they always discussed their views based on a foundation built with mutual respect. Terri recalls the specialness of those conversations and how they deepened their friendship with one another. It is a life story that the church needs to hear and understand.

Honestly, I’ve seen more examples of the contrariness of church people than the potential for peacemaking…and that’s just in reference to how people from the same church treat each other! Being listeners is a hard thing to be for people who are set on destruction!

My recent three weeks of teaching seventh grade social studies revealed a number of things to me. One of those that applies to this area of listening is this: Listening is a commitment, and there are those who refuse to listen because their lips get in the way of their ears!

 

Slow to Listen…Really Slow!

November 9, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 November 9, 2016

                                    

Frank Luntz is a CBS new correspondent who has covered elections and done group interviews for two and a half decades. Last Sunday night 60 Minutes aired parts of an interview that he had with a mixed group of voters. Luntz left that interview a bit downcast because of the outrage of the group that communicated several things.

One of those key learnings he pointed to was that people don’t listen. That might sound simple and uncomplicated, and yet there’s a lot more behind it. He made the point that he lost control of the group five minutes in. People wanted to talk, but people didn’t want to listen. The presidential election simply mirrors that fact in our nation. People are slow to listen…really, really slow!

Another way of stating it is “I’m going to say something and you’re going to listen, but you, on the other hand, have nothing of value that I will listen to.

Luntz made this revealing statement: “People listen to anything that affirms themselves instead of informing themselves.” We’ve taken the Book of James statement to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry (James 1:19) and reversed it. Now we are deafly slow to listen, NASCAR quick to speak, and unstably quick to become angry!

Social media has unknowingly encouraged this. Someone can spout off venom and not hang around to hear the reactions. It is easy and, in some ways, relationally shallow to speak on Facebook, and exit out before hearing the thoughts of others.

This slowness in listening runs through a variety of systems in our world. Parents don’t want to hear the concerns of their child’s teachers concerning his behavior. Students don’t want to listen to their teachers, who they have often written off as irrelevant. And sometimes teachers don’t want to listen to students who disagree with an idea or are slow in understanding what is being taught.

In the youth sports world there is a decreasing number of officials. One main reason is the verbal abuse that is heaped upon them by parents, coaches, and players. And think about it! A sports official is simply someone who is making judgment calls…rulings…on situations that occur in the midst of a game. A number of officials have been physically attacked in the midst of athletic contests in recent years.

We don’t want to listen to anything that we have decided we disagree with! We have become very skilled in not listening!

Yesterday my 8th Grade boy’s basketball team got waxed. We went into the game 4-0 and left 4-1. But, and here’s what I told them after the game, hopefully we learned from the experience. We didn’t leave the game talking about how bad the officiating was or what poor sports the other team’s players were. On the contrary, the game was well officiated and the players on the other team acted just as well as my players did. We just got beat…and we listened with our minds to what was being taught to us.

In the coming days may each of us strive to be quick to listen and a lot slower in speaking. We need that. Our country needs that. I’m hoping that when Frank Luntz does another group interview before the 2020 election he will be able to hear what is being said, not just a room full of disgruntled folk who have a lot to say and nothing to hear!

If you want to respond…I promise I’ll listen!

The Ability to Listen…Online!

June 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      June 27, 2015

                                     

Social media is awesome in so many ways! We can reconnect with people who we haven’t seen or heard from in years. We can see pictures of folk we’ve grown up with…and be able to see how old they look compared to us…compare the amount of gray, if you will, and the size of our waistlines!

And what can be awesome can also be awful! I’ve been amazed at the things that are said online that people wouldn’t dream of saying in person. There’s like an openness to be condescending since Herbie isn’t in the room with me!

People are much more bold online. Or maybe bold isn’t the right word! Maybe it’s more like “boldly insensitive!”

I find that the ability to listen online is an unrecognized but gracious gift. The patience to hold off on giving my two cents worth is invaluable! Some may say that if I hold off then the insensitively bold will dictate the pace of the race.

It seems like Proverbs has a few nuggets of listening gold that need to sink in a little bit.

“The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” (Proverbs 10:14)

“Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.” (Proverbs 29:11) 

People are quick to speak online and slow to listen. In the Letter of James in the New Testament he emphasizes the reverse of those two…being quick to listen and slow to speak. He adds a third…”being slow to become angry.”

So before you send that comment that dehumanizes the person you differ with…take your fingers off the keyboard for a few moments and watch a Youtube video of babies laughing or cats playing with dogs. It may be the wise thing to do in a world that is often immensely unwise and unkind.