Listening is Understanding

revjosh1.jpg  Fundamental to listening is understanding.  I would go so far to say that true listening isn’t hearing, it is understanding.  It is not remembering, it is not the number of times we utter “mhmm.”  Listening is understanding.

        Listening begins with a willingness to understand.  If you don’t approach it with that, you’re not listening.  You’re judging, or validating, or evaluating.  It is a good exercise after a conversation (cause if you did it during you wouldn’t be listening) to inquire where you were seeking to understand what was being shared and where you were evaluating what was being said in relation to what you assume.  How much were you listening to some one’s perspective versus a confirmation of your own?

        A good example is when we are faced with criticism from a partner?  “You know, I feel so disrespected when you are late from work and don’t tell me.”  Now if we are listening, what might we hear?  My partner feels neglected and that I’m not caring for her when I don’t call her when I’m going to be home late from work.

        What might we do instead with this information?  “How selfish you are not to appreciate how hard I work for us.”  “If I would have stopped to call you I would have just been home later.”

        What is misunderstanding?  It is not disagreement.  It is not listening.

Another example:  A friend says, “Obama and the Democrats are driving this country right off a cliff.”

        How do you respond?  “Well you know, the last republican administration squandered financial surplus, went to war without financial accountability greatly expanding our nation’s debt, and added huge new bureaucracies to the country.”

        You might be right, but would you be listening?  No.

        “Tell me more about what you mean by that?”

  It always upsets me when I hear anyone bring up that phrase “No religion or politics.”  “Bummer,” I think to myself,That’s all I ever want to talk about.”  Why are politics and religion off limits in so many social circles (especially apparently in churches and congress)?  I don’t think it is because religion or politics are really all that controversial, it is because we don’t listen well.  It is because of a deep insecurity that I might be wrong…or may not really know what my core beliefs are at all.

        The truth is, when it comes to the truth, we can become scared to listen.

        It might be easier to misconstrue feedback from my partner as an attack and affirmation that she doesn’t really love me then to have my comfortable view of the way things are threatened in any way.

        It might be easier to dismiss republicans or democrats as brain washed by religion or liberal media than to listen to how someone’s own principles are guiding them to beliefs that might be contrary to my own.

            Sakej Henderson said, “To truly listen is to risk being changed forever.”

        This speaks to the heart of listening.  Listening calls us to be vulnerable.  It is in a sense a form of surrender.  It involves a willingness to be changed.  The investment, however, offers a return. To in turn be truly witnessed.  To be understood and known.

2 Responses to “Listening is Understanding”

  1. Rachel says:

    Thank you for this. How will we ever create a world that works for everyone if we can’t hear what works for anyone but ourselves? I try hard to open my heart when listening to an opposing point of view. To hear not just their opinion but what it is in their Spirit that compels them to be of that opinion. I find that if I focus on the underlying motives (usually someone in the conversation is operating out of fear) I can speak with compassion.

    I have had some friends get upset with me because I am the same as you: there are no two topics I would rather discuss than God and politics! LOL As you can imagine, I tend to find myself short on conversational partners. 😉

  2. Laurie says:

    Have you ever tried really hard to concentrate on what the other person is saying, instead of planning what you will say next, while they are still talking, to add to the conversation? It is a great exercise…but very hard to do.

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