Listen Up! Practical Help for Lousy Listeners by Deepak Reju for The Gospel Coalition
Are you a bad listener? What would your spouse or best friend or children say about you? People tend to think much more highly of themselves than they actually deserve.
So what would you say: Are you a good or bad listener?
There are several practices and traits that can derail good listening. Impatience leads to shoddy listening. An impatient listener is not able to appreciate or be fully engaged in her present circumstances. She is not willing to hear her friend out. She interrupts or cuts him off. In her impatience, she communicates that she doesn’t care about what her friend has to say.
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Another killer of conversations is tiredness. In a fast-paced society, people don’t rest much. Little or no sleep means you’re already exhausted when you begin to talk, which doesn’t usually lead to true conversation. Think about your listening abilities during a Sunday morning sermon. How much do you zone out, especially when you’re bored with what the pastor is saying? It’s easy for the mind to wander to other things—work, what you’re doing that afternoon, a conversation with a friend that morning. The tendency to be easily distracted makes for bad listening.
Or you might tend to interrupt others before they finish talking. Your thought is so pressing—and your tongue is so loose—that you blurt things out before the other person is even done speaking. Impatience, tiredness, zoning out, interrupting—these are just a few of the things that can lead to poor listening.
Do any of these descriptions fit you?
Don’t Be a Fool
Consider the biblical picture of a bad listener—the proverbial fool.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. (Prov. 18:2)
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Prov. 18:13)
Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Prov. 29:20)
A biblical fool is one who doesn’t listen and therefore doesn’t understand. Instead, he speaks too quickly. In Proverbs 18:2, the fool finds pleasure only in saying what he wants to say. Because of his pride or selfishness or lack of love, he doesn’t care about understanding. He is impulsive. He answers before he hears. Thus, according to Proverbs 18:13, such a person is deemed foolish and shameful. Or as one commentator put it, this impulsive fool is “stupid and a disgrace.”
Are you the proverbial fool? Be honest. If you are, you might need to confess your lack of patience, love, and understanding to the Lord (Ps. 51:3–4) and to those around you.