I have a very cool coffee mug. It has an ancient Chinese symbol on it that represents the act of listening. A friend of mine, Bill, gave me the mug after his wife, Wimberly passed away. Wimberly had a talent for creating deep, meaningful relationships in her life through simply being an available and active listener. I want to learn from her example and listen well to the people in my life. I want to be bonded to them as brothers and sisters in Christ. I want them to care deeply about my life, so I must therefore be willing to care deeply about their lives.
Strange as it sounds, my cool mug helps me to do just that. I keep it in my office, and make sure to fill it with good tea or coffee before every meeting that I have. Looking at the symbol for listening is a constant reminder to me of 6 very specific things. The cool thing about the Chinese Symbol is that it is actually made up of 6 other characters that represent the following:
You are part of the process. You have to decide in every conversation to be present and to take responsibility for your attentiveness. Striving to hear clearly without opinion or judgment. Asking clarifying questions or repeating what you heard to ensure clarity and understanding.
This one is pretty self explanatory, but beyond the physical requirement of needing ears to hear, we can learn to listen for inflection, emotion, a cry for help, and more. Trust your ear to tell you if what is being said is superficial or if there are layers to the conversation that require your attention and concern.
It isn’t just what you hear but what you see. Scientists disagree on the exact percentage of communication that is nonverbal, but they all agree that it is a lot. Email and TxT does not convey emotion or sarcasm effectively. Use your eyes to expand your capacity to empathize with your friend so that they know that they have been heard.
- Undivided Attention
We all know how valuable an undivided listener is to us, and yet, we can find ourselves texting or scrolling Insta while we are in conversation with someone. Not only is it lowkey rude, dividing our attendion doesn’t help anyone. Compartmentalize your phone addiction today and make every conversation an event that you cannot miss.
I love that the Ancient Chinese listed compassion as a requirement for a good listener. This is easier for some people than for others, but I would challenge you in a new way. The people in your church are not hurting 100% of the time. We know how to be compassionate to people who are hurting, but when was the last time that you celebrated someone’s win? I want to be among the first phonecalls that my friends make when they get a raise, complete a 5K, get a new job, or find out that they are pregnant. I want to be known as someone that is excellent at celebrating and cheering on my friends.
I’m not going to lie, this one is my favorite. I live in the United States, so the likelihood that I will ever stand in the presence of royalty is pretty slim. However, I have met famous people before, and though they couldn’t command their entourage with an “Off with his head!” I was still nervous. Needless to say, I was all ears when they spoke and gave advice. This tip alone encompasses all of the other elements of a good listener, and gives it all a sense of importance.
I hope that you found this list as helpful as I have, and that you are able to apply at least 3 or 4 of these characteristics to your conversations today. I know that I have made an effort to listen well over the past year, and it has been Miraclegrow [Not a sponsor… yet] to my friendships. Implement these tools and let them grow your friendships as well.