It’s been said (and I really love this quote) that “there isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story.” But I think we need to change that “heard” to “really listened to their story”. How many times do we read someone’s opinion on social media and immediately feel like we know exactly what they meant simply because we read, or “heard”, their words? Do we jump to conclusions about what their motivations, their dreams, their intelligence, their values, their character flaws, their qualities and their worth must be? A good friend from my Texas high school is now a professional opera singer in New York City. He is not LDS, he is single, he is gay and he is a Republican. He is one of the most open, loving and accepting people I have ever known. A few days ago, he posted this: “I’m saddened by the dwindling ability to have a conversation with someone.” How can this kind and caring, diverse and extremely capable person get to feeling this way? Maybe he is feeling like some of the listening has been replaced by merely hearing. And then I read in the January issue of the Friend magazine that one of the CTR challenges for the month is “Talk to a family member and really listen.” It must be something ALL of us need to work on.
A popular website for developing basic life skills describes it this way:
“Listening is the most fundamental component of interpersonal communication skills. Listening is not something that just happens (that is hearing), listening is an active process in which a conscious decision is made to listen to and understand the messages of the speaker. Listeners should remain neutral and non-judgmental, this means trying not to take sides or form opinions, especially early in the conversation. Active listening is also about patience – pauses and short periods of silence should be accepted. Listeners should not be tempted to jump in with questions or comments every time there are a few seconds of silence. Active listening involves giving the other person time to explore their thoughts and feelings, they should, therefore, be given adequate time for that.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are commanded to love one another as He loves us. LOVE. Like He does. How can we do that? This is where that first quote changes me so much. Christ can love us so perfectly because He knows us– our story– perfectly. He know us perfectly because He listens to us–even to the words and fears and desires and joys and sorrows we don’t speak aloud or post on Facebook. Even though I’ll never be able to see into someone’s heart like He does, I’ve seen how focusing on really listening has increased my love for my children, my husband, my friends, members of my ward, and people I interact with everywhere I go. As we listen, we catch glimpses of who they really are and feel the smallest inkling of how much He loves them….and then we can’t help but love them, too. (Moroni 7:48)
Here are a few questions you can ask to open up listening opportunities:
When did you start feeling like this?
Why do you feel this way?
Can you tell me more about….?
How do you remind yourself to stop and listen more? How have you been blessed by really listening to someone’s story?