Category Archives: Listening

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 9: Listening Inward, Part Two-Listen to the Sower

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     One of the things that I think is most important about the listening process is the response. It is not enough, it seems, to just listen to someone. That’s a whole lot of passive listening going on-just listening to hear, not taking anything  in. Instead, I need to become a much more active listener-actually taking to heart the things that I have heard. For instance, in yesterday’s sermon, there were certain portions of it that really spoke to me. Now, I can’t just have heard it then and let that be it.  It’s not just that I was paying attention that matters-I’ll know I’m a better listener when I begin acting on the things that I hear. This is especially important me when it comes to my faith. I truly believe that God communicates with us all the time, and I with Him. The things He tells me are majorly important! If I need to listen and respond to anyone, it’s my Father. 

Look at this passage of Scripture. Here, Jesus is explaining the parable He just told about a sower and his seed: 

“18 “Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: 19 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. 20 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 21 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 22 The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. 23 The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”
-Matthew 13:18-23

     This is pertaining to anyone who hears the word of God. There are those who don’t understand it to begin with. There are those who hear it, but don’t allow it to take root in them and they really weren’t listening at all. There are those who hear, and listen, and understand, but don’t retain. And lastly, those who hear and listen and understand and allow that Word to really illicit a response from them  I want to be a listener who responds, especially to God’s Word. With all of of the stuff I have learned, a lot of it applies to actual conversations with people. I can’t really have good body posture while talking to God, or look Him in the eyes as He talks to me. But I can understand. I can give Him my fullest attention, I can be attentive. I can even take notes. Most importantly, I can ask questions and clarify what He means, because I am striving to understand Him and then use what I have learned. 

(all vocabulary has already been used in previous posts)

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 8: The Preacher

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    Today was a good day to listen. I was in church this morning, and things were different today. The sermon really spoke to me. 
Now, normally in church there is a kind of a nominal attitude towards the sermon. Not necessarily bad, but just a quiet listening atmosphere as the pastor preaches. Today was different. There was a lot of back-channel cues being given by the audience-both verbal and nonverbal. We responded with actual shouts of affirmation (among them, the classic “Amen!”), along with clapping and other signals that let him know we understood what he was saying.Normally, we are a pretty quiet crowd-with only the occasional shout to let him know we are awake. Today, we were all engaged with the sermon! I could tell that everyone was critically evaluating the messages being spoken out, and everyone seemed to find them to be true. Our response resonated even more in our pastor, who spoke then with even more enthusiasm and vigor. We fueled each other’s fires, so to speak.

     For me, personally, my biggest problem in church is that I experience a lot of the primacy and recency effects of listening-I remember a lot of what’s said at the beginning and at the end of the sermon. To combat this, now I take a lot of notes when I listen. The act of note taking forces me to pay attention throughout the entire sermon, and helps me to focus more attentively on what the pastor is talking about. It was especially helpful today; the sermon had so many good points! I’m glad I didn’t miss them. 

Overall, it was a good listening day today. I got to put into practice more of the skills that I am learning, and I can tell that it is really helping me in everyday life.

Vocabulary:

Back-channel cues: Verbal and nonverbal signals that indicate you are listening and attempting to understand the message. 
Critically evaluating: The process of determining how truthful, authentic, or believable you judge the message and the speaker to be.
Primary/recency effect: The tendency to remember information that we heard first/last over what we had heard in the middle.

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 7: Getting Directions

So, today I took a walk with my lovely girlfriend through the neighborhood. It was a beautiful fall evening.
Then, it happened.
I lost my keys.
It took me a while to realize it, but when I did I was slightly frustrated. We decided to go get the car and look along the route that we had taken. I was running along outside and she stayed in the car. All would be going well, but there were a few instances where we weren’t sure which way we had taken. Normally this would provide grounds for stubbornness and dispute-but today, no argument ensued.
First of all, I learned a bit from my girlfriend today on how to effectively communicate in a tense situation. She immediately began by clarifying her supportive intentions-that she was here to help. She offered the solution of going back to get the car to begin with. Secondly, she offered comforting messages to let me know that I don’t need to get stressed; that we would go find the keys and it wouldn’t be a big deal. She gave me a great deal of social support that usually I don’t want, but often times really need.
Now, being honest, I normally don’t like these kinds of comforting messages. I just end up listening passivelynot really paying attention to the things she says-because usually it’s things that I already know I need to do. But today, I took what she said and let it work in me-which worked out much better.
It ended up being her directions that led us to find the key.
Which she saw.
And told me about.

So the lesson for the day?
Guys, listen to your women. She does know what she’s talking about.

What Did You Say? How to Improve Your Listening Skills, Day 6: The Update

Image     So. To update. I have been doing much better with my listening! There won’t be a lot to say here. Today I had an intense conversation with a person of great importance to my life. I employed good listening skills. 
I sat with good nonverbal communication-body facing towards him, good eye contact, nodding to affirm his statements. 
I actually listened, actively, to all of his statements. When I had a chance to respond, I did so respectfully. I addressed all the points he made, and even when I disagreed with his points I did so in a good manner. Most of the time, I maintained good eye contact and I kept calm-not letting my emotions necessarily affect my ability to listen and respond. 
    It really helped me to employ the listening skills that I have learned-it made the conversation much less stressful, and went much smoother than I anticipated! I am happy to report that I am improving a lot. Now, in the final stages of this specific study, I look to solidify even more of the things that I have learned. 

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 5: Listening to a Screen

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     Another kind of listening that you don’t think a lot about is through texting. Not even calling. Texting. I suppose that there isn’t much physical listening going on, but the latter half of listening-the response, the understanding and feedback-is definitely there. Texting requires a lot of attention. If you’re someone who doesn’t look at what’s going on, meanings may be misconstrued and a lot of miscommunication may occur.One thing that is really important to remember is the temporal structure of texting. I might send out a text in the morning and not get a reply until late that afternoon. Or, I might say something when I’m in one mood, and get a reply later when I’m in a completely different mindset-that may affect my reading of that reply. The time that it takes between messages has a huge impact on the conversation itself. For me, I know that I get worried the longer it takes someone to reply. Most of the time this is an irrational fear on my part-that they aren’t replying because they are mad at me, etc. 

    I have a lot of digital communication apprehension, especially when it comes to texting. Over the years I’ve gotten better at not worrying so much, and it’s helped with my text communications. But it still requires a LOT of effort on my part to make sure that what I’m thinking in my head translates to what I type out on my phone. I become a little crazy, sometimes, in making sure that my point is being understood-but only because I know that I have a way of putting my foot in my mouth. To be quite honest, this is an area I really should look at improving. I’m good at listening to people in person, but my feedback through a phone is less than stellar. The things I do good though, are as follows:
-I am working on making sure I clearly understand what someone means before I reply.
-I am working on making sure that I am clearly understood.
-I am working on taking my sarcasm and dry humor out of texting, as it is often seen as being mean. 

Overall, I definitely need to improve my “listening” skills via the text message. I will keep you all updated on how I’m doing in the coming days.

Vocabulary:

miscommunication: misinterpretations associated with deriving meaning from a digital message.
temporal structure:the time it takes to send and receive messages or the time that elapses during a communication interaction.
digital communication apprehension: nervousness associated with communicating through social media.

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 4: Listening Inward

    ear    It occurred to me today that, in my quest to become a better listener to others, I have neglected one person I need to listen to-myself. While it is not often that I talk to myself-in conversation style-I do believe that I need to take more heed to that “little voice” inside my head. I believe that we all have a conscience. Furthermore, I personally believe that that conscience has a bigger brother- the Holy Spirit, given to us by Jesus to guide us through this life until we go back home.
So really, I’m not listening to myself-but God.
Do normal listening skills apply to God? I think all the more. I believe that that God gave us a conscience that guides us with a higher set of ethics-notions that are considered right and wrong by humanity; and cause us to question, and think, and wonder. Think about it. It is generally accepted that lying is bad, that stealing is wrong in most cases. Murder is wrong. Cheating is wrong. And we all are searching for those questions-who am I? Why am I here? What’s my purpose?
Why do we all have this same type of mental framework?
Because it all comes from the same source.
Our conscious is that voice inside our head, a God voice, telling us when something is wrong that we are doing-or when there’s something we SHOULD be doing. It’s all a matter of whether we listen.
For those who are believers, though, Jesus said the Holy Spirit would guide us. The Holy Spirit enters a person when they enter a relationship with God, and is like the conscience on steroids. The very presence OF a conscience is evidence enough to point towards a spiritual aspect of life, but with the Holy Spirit one can seek out and discern and learn about spiritual matters. Look at what John 14:15-17 says about the Holy Spirit.
15 “If you love me, obey my commandments.16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”
     According to Jesus, the Holy Spirit is the conscience of the believer.  This being said, it is evident that the entire world cannot deny the phenomena of the conscience in general. Science can’t explain it. But It’s not just a random thing; it’s the spirit God placed within us all to guide us. And the Holy Spirit helps those who believe to learn from God about more spiritual truths.

     But I believe He gave us ALL an understanding of what’s right and what’s wrong.

    For me, I have a firm relationship with God, and I believe I have the Holy Spirit in me. There are definitely times when I ignore the Holy Spirit speaking to me. Today I did, and I missed out on some awesome opportunity to have a good talk with a lady at Starbucks about faith. I was writing a sermon, and I felt I should ask her a question pertaining to it-but I was scared, and refused. I believe some meetings of people are ordained, but this one I let slip away as a result of not listening. However, on the days where I have listened to that prompting in the back of my head, I have been rewarded with a sense of fulfillment. For example. There was an elderly lady raking her lawn one day, about a year ago. It was a huge lawn. I immediately felt the Holy Spirit tell me to go help her! But I ignored it for a bit. That sense of guilt came upon me, so I went back and offered my services. She was in shock that someone would do such a thing, and thanked me profusely! The right thing had been done that day.
Now, someone might say, “this isn’t about listening! It’s about following your conscience!” And they would be both right and wrong. You see, listening isn’t just about sitting there and paying attention. Listening requires understanding what’s said and responding to whomever is talking. Listening is an entire act within itself. You aren’t fully listening if you don’t get what was said. And if something was said that solicits some type of action (which it always does), you aren’t fully listening if there is no response to what was said.
So that voice inside your head? That weird, vague conscience?

     That’s God speaking, trying to get your attention. Don’t just hear Him. Listen to Him. Respond to Him. And see what good starts to happen through you when you do.

Vocabulary:

ethics: a set of moral principles that may be held by a society, a group, or an individual.
understanding: accurately decoding a message so you comprehend the semantic, pragmatic, and sociolinguistic meaning of a message.
responding: the process of providing feedback to your partner’s message.

What Did You Say? Improving Your Listening Skills, Day 3: Silence Is Golden

It pays to be quiet. I discovered this yesterday. At my birthday party, there was one friend in particular who came early and stayed later. He is a great kid and a good friend, but he’s always been a bit on the quieter side of things. It’s not that he was feeling bad or anything (as far as I can tell), he just keeps to himself a bit more.
Towards the end of the night, when everyone had left, he began to talk a bit more, and open up about his life. I noticed that he had a lot of stories to tell-and a lot of things that, when they were heard, were quite deep and explained a lot about his past. One could have had the urge to tell him to be quiet, because he was talking for quite a while. But the conversation purpose here wasn’t to have a back-and-forth exchange. This friend had a need to talk. It appears that he doesn’t have a lot of opportunities to talk, just about life. Because of this, it was my job, then, to simply listen.
My other listening skills weren’t all there today. I was exhausted from the party, so my attention definitely appeared divided. I was mentally completely present, though. Through listening, I found out a lot of things that I never would have known before. It gave me a whole new insight into who he is, and where he came from-things I never would have known if the conversation had been a normal give and take.
Today is short and sweet.
Sometimes, it’s better to simply listen.

Vocabulary:
conversation purpose: what the conversation is intended to do.