Lately, my family has been making fun of my hearing loss. I make them repeat everything, then accuse them of mumbling. It’s my price for Bob Dylan through headphones as a teenager.
Since I can’t hear as well these days, I’m trying to listen better.
Being hard of hearing, however, is not nearly as bad as hard of listening.
Northwoods naturalist, Sigurd Olson, affectionately dubbed his wilderness cabin on Burntside Lake, “Listening Point.” Sig explained, “I named this place Listening Point because only when one comes to listen, only when one is aware and still, can things be seen and heard.”
Can you imagine how rich our relationships would be if we approached them all as Listening Points?
You and I have been given two ears and one mouth. That’s because we’re supposed to listen twice as much as we speak, but talking and explaining come easier than hearing and understanding.
Why is it so hard to listen?
Consider this. We speak at 100-150 words per minute. We are able to comprehend at 250-300 words per minute. We think at 600 words per minute.
So, if you are a fast thinker (600 wpm) and the other person is a slow talker (100 wpm), you still have 500 words per minute left over for thinking about other stuff. For efficient folks, that’s a lot of wasted communication space. Therefore, the fast listener tends to zone out and think about a myriad of other things.
Zoning out is evidenced by such responses: “umm-hmm”, “Yes, dear”, “I don’t know”, and “whatever.” Listening is hard work!
True listening is more than hearing the words. It’s processing those words, and seeking to understand their depth and meaning. As Jim Elliot journaled, “Wherever you are, be all there!”
Margaret Wheatley said, “Listening is such a simple act. It requires us to be present, and that takes practice but we don’t have to do anything else. We don’t have to advise, or coach, or sound wise. We just have to be willing to sit there and listen.”
“Momma, are you listening to me?” little Heidi wondered. “Umm-Hmmm” the distracted mother replied.
“No, Momma, I need you to listen with your eyes!”