Be an active listener

Have you ever considered that God gave us two ears but only one mouth? Does this not mean that we should listen twice as much as we talk?

John Makumbe
John Makumbe

There is certainly a lot of misunderstanding in families because we are generally not good listeners. Some men seem to have perfected the art of not listening. They hide behind newspapers or turn the television up when their wives or children want to chatter on about their day.

Mothers too can be so busy with their work that they miss the chance to hear the story about what happened in the playground at break time, or what happened at the office or factory. They may say, “Go on, I am listening,” but they stand with their backs to the child or the husband and will not take time to turn around and listen. That way they will not really hear what is being said. We must learn to listen with all of our bodies, not just our ears.

When we make the effort to give our children or partner our undivided attention, we are telling them that they are important to us, that their concerns or interests are also ours, and that they are of value to us as people. We listen with our eyes, faces and posture as well as our ears.

Most of us would rather talk than listen. And even when we have listened, we are often too quick to reply.

When a husband or wife shares about a problem at work, or our child tells us about an incident at school, they do not always want a detailed analysis of the situation or a lecture on how to avoid such and such from our point of view. They simply want to know that we have heard and that we care.

Glib answers such as, “Don’t worry about it,” or “It will all blow over,” “Forget it,” or “Sleep on it,” are seldom helpful. If we love people we will try to understand how they feel and share their anxieties. We need to hear our teenagers out so that they will know that we do not think that they are making a fuss about nothing. They need lots of space to make mistakes and grow.

Jerry was late for school; he could not find his sports socks. He rushed out leaving the entire contents of his drawers on the bedroom floor. In spite of that, he had quite a good day at school.

On the way home, he remembers what a mess he had left in his bedroom. He therefore anticipates his mother’s outburst. “How could you? I can’t be expected to tidy up after you. I will not put up with this lack of concern for others. Every week it’s the same, and remember what happened after camp last year.” Sure enough, when he gets home, his mother is waiting at the door.

She smiles and says, “Guess what I baked today? Chocolate cake – your favourite. Let’s have a drink while you tell me all about the game today, and then we will tackle your bedroom together.” The bedroom will still get tidied but anger and frustration will not have spoiled the relationship. The lines of communication have remained open. There will be space and opportunity for Jerry to change

Being a good listener means that people will keep talking. They know that you want to hear what they have to say. Active listening is when you are able to help others to interpret how they feel. It is always wonderful to be listened to by someone you love and someone who loves you.

Post published in: Opinions & Analysis

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