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Learning How to Listen

Learning How to Listen December 15, 2021

Listen to “Even in the Silence,” a song by Hilary Weeks, and read about strengthening your connection with Christ.

The skill of listening is as valuable as the crust around an apple pie and as important as sunscreen at the pool—but it’s as rare as getting a refund on our taxes. The skill of listening is available to all but used by few.

Here are just a few benefits of listening. First, listening facilitates healthy, clear communication and is foundational to meaningful relationships. Second, being an attentive listener can propel our career and educational pursuits. Third, compassionate listening opens the door to healing and growth.

Finally, and most importantly, our ability to listen is key to our relationship with God. Sometimes He is speaking, and we don’t hear Him. Maybe we are distracted or too busy. Maybe we don’t slow down enough to have the stillness required to hear heaven’s quiet whisper.

You might be a natural listener, but even if you’re not, we can all improve our skills. Here are three tips that will help. They are quite simple and very effective.

Remember, small and simple can lead to great things. Like in songwriting. In my 36 years of writing songs, I’ve learned that most songs are written using three foundational chords: I, IV, and V. That’s it! Can you believe it? Now you have insider songwriting information! Countless songs have been and will be written using those chords. They are simple, but they are powerful, and they work—just like the following three suggestions for becoming a better listener.

Remove Distractions

It is so important not to be distracted when we’re trying to listen to someone. How often do we multitask while listening? Sure, we can “hear” what someone is saying while we do the dishes or sweep the floor—but are we really listening to what they are saying? Probably not.

When a conversation begins, especially an important or sensitive one, put down the broom or the dish towel. Set the cell phone aside. Close the laptop. Turn the TV off. Removing distractions will allow us to focus on what the other person is saying. They will sense the conversation is important to us, and they will feel valued. They may even open up more when they know we care—and they can tell we care when we give our full attention.

By removing distractions, we will also be able to see the person’s body language. So much is communicated through facial expressions and body language. We can observe those subtle elements of communication when we focus on the conversation and put distractions to the side.

Make Eye Contact

Once we have removed distractions, we are ready to begin a conversation. Whether the conversation is fun, deep, stressful, humorous, or sad—we are fully present and ready for what is coming our way. As the discussion unfolds, it is important look into the eyes of the person we are talking to.

We don’t have to stare ’em down. It’s not a staring contest—we’re allowed to blink! Let it feel natural—our eyes don’t need to be glued to theirs. But making eye contact, facing the person we’re talking to, and nodding to show we understand all increase the likelihood of a successful interaction. Making eye contact is a simple thing, but it will elevate the quality of our conversations by 783%. (Admittedly, I made that percentage up—so let’s just say “a whole lot.”)

Don’t Plan Your Response

In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” We have all experienced conversations where that happens, either from the other person or from ourselves.

Often when someone is talking, we think about what we want to say next. Something they say triggers something we want to say, and we want to jump in. We want to interrupt. We lose track of what they are talking about because we want to talk.

A healthy, enjoyable conversation goes both ways, of course. It is natural to want to share our thoughts too. Just be careful to stay present. Keep listening. If we don’t get to insert something right away, we can make a mental note (heck, we can even write down an actual note). Then, when we do get a chance to talk, we’ll be able to share our thoughts without interrupting.

Better Listening

I hope these three tips are helpful. We each have the potential to become better listeners. We have it in us! We do! Our conversations can deepen and become more meaningful and fun.

Plus, improving our listening skills will improve more than just our earthly relationships. This improvement will allow us to connect with Christ as well. As we become better listeners with other people, we will also become better listeners with the Divine.

About Hilary Weeks
Hilary grew up in Anchorage, Alaska and loves the outdoors. She began playing the piano at age 8 and wrote her first song at 14. She has written and recorded 13 solo albums and is the first and only member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to chart in the Top Ten on the Christian Billboard Charts. Hilary is married to Tim Weeks and they have four daughters and two sons-in-law. You can read more about the author here.

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