The issue of how we talk to one another is current and important — as hopefully evidenced by our blog posts over the past moths. As I continue to read, and to hear from, writers, teachers, and all of you on the front lines of ministry, I keep hearing about “hearing.” Listening is so important if we are going to have productive, helpful, and grace-filled conversations.
Neil Bassingthwaighte wrote (in one of this series’ earlier blogs), about the “Lost Art of Listening” and he challenged us to be people who “listen to understand.” I encourage you to go back and reread that blog.
There is a concept coming out of that challege that has been stuck in my head for some months now, and I want to offer it to you as a tool to help you “listen to understand” even better. It may not be as profound to you as it has been to me, but for me it put practical “flesh on the bones” of the challenge to “listen to understand.” The concept runs something like this:
You can’t really debate someone regarding their position until you can articulate their position better than they themselves can. That is truly “listening to understand.
This means that we need to listen long and well, until we are able to fairly describe the other person’s position – possibly to their satisfaction. This is a high bar. It means we understand what they are saying (from their perspective, not just from ours). It also means we have done the hard work to understand why they are saying what they are saying — we have listened enough to understand their heart and motivation. Admittedly, it is a lot less work to make assumptions about motives, perspectives, and conclusions, but the end result of assumptions is usually counterproductive. Quite honestly, my default is to “listen to respond” — looking to hear something that I can pounce on, correct, use to support my case, or simply reject. But that is not “listening to understand.”
So, let’s be sure we are putting our ears to very good use in the journey from argument to conversation. We will never make progress without them. Yes, it is important to give great attention to our words — what we speak and how we speak. It is also very important to give attention to our minds — how we think, how we arrive at our own position on issues, and on what we are basing our conclusions. But it is equally important to give great attention to our ears, to the degree of understanding the other person’s mind and heart. If we shortcut this work, we might be wrestling with little more than a caricature of reality. And that is not particularly productive.
Can you accurately tell me what I believe and why?
If so, I know you value me as a person, and I will want to do the same with you. Our discussion will be deep and rich and healthy and will organically move from argument to conversation. How refreshing might that be – a natural progression from argument to discussion? Let’s lead the way.
EFCC Leadership Catalyst