Earlier today I was to meet a friend of mine for lunch. He is a pastor and our lunches usually cover a wide range of topics. As he approached the table I stood up, hugged him as I always do, and announced “I have gunk in my ears and I can not hear you.” He laughed as I continued, “I truly can not hear you, so I will have to be more intent in listening to what you say.” And that was how we spent our lunch. Me trying not to speak to loud when I talked, and as he spoke I was intently listening, not wanting to miss a word, even at times trying to read his lips, totally focused on each individual and specific word.
And that is what sparked this thought.
We don’t listen anymore, or, maybe, we never did. People talk at each other, not with each other. They pretend to be listening when they are in fact already preparing what they will say next, not taking into consideration that the other person is offering information that if heard will make the conversation more meaningful.
How much information is actually lost?
Recently, Christie, (her real name), a college age friend of mine who is working on her Masters in Social Work at the University of Georgia relayed this fact to me that had been stated by a professor in class; “that in an average conversation each person only hears 17% of what the other person says.” If true, we are missing most of the information being offered to us, and how can we be expected to respond accordingly.
A close friend of recording artist Amy Grant once told me that “when you are talking to Amy she listens as though you are the only other person in the room. That she truly cares about what you are saying.” I found that to be true when I worked with Amy some time after that statement was made. We should all be so mindful, so intent in listening
In Psalm 54:2 it says, “Hear my prayer, O God; Give ear to the words of my mouth.”
What if, when we are praying, God only heard 17% of what we were saying thus only answering 17% of our requests. What if, when you sat on the knee of Santa Claus and you poured out your guts to the guy and told him all you wanted for Christmas, he said, “Okay, Johnny, I got about 17% of all that. Merry Christmas.”
As the Christmas season approaches and people gather in settings of communication, I would encourage, no, actually, I would challenge you to LISTEN to people. Listen intently and though it is a cliche, hang on to every word.
My friend, the pastor, I went to lunch with? He always listens intently anyway. But, there is something that he does, that I want to imitate. When I say something he considers important, he will listen, then sit back, close his eyes, ponder it and then respond. By doing this, he has taken my words into his own life, owned them and considered their weight before formulating a response. I love that.
Practice this tomorrow. It will in fact take practice. When someone speaks to you listen with no preconceived notion of responding. Let almost an awkward silence fill the area between you and the other person, and then based on what has been said to you, respond.
Wanna give Hope away this Christmas? Start by listening to the need, the desire, the hurt, the pain, the loneliness, the inability to be seen or be heard, start by gathering the words, consider each and every one of them, and then respond with the Hope of the Good News of the season.
By doing this, you will in fact bring peace and good tidings to all men.