This is something that has been persistently on my mind lately.
Listening is a skill that Americans really struggle with. And we struggle with it for several reasons.
We are used to, and now nearly demand instant results. We struggle to listen to our friend delve on and on with their story. ‘Get to the point already’ we murmur in our heads; or sometimes even so rudely say out loud.
As mindful creatures, we all too often also listen to respond. We anxiously wait for our friend, colleague, or partner to finish their sentence just so we can get our own response in. Many times this leads us to stop listening halfway through because we are so focused on our reply to wholly hear them out.
In our fast paced world, we are almost always required to multitask. It can become such a job in itself to get ourselves to stop doing long enough to engage in listening when our friends call to chat or a family member comes home stressed and needing to vent.
But it is so important to actively engage in listening. To become aware of our distractions and quick responses and clear them from our head. Even more important than simply listening, we need to refrain from listening simply to give our own input.
We’ve all done it. None of us are perfect. When our friend calls us crying, upset that her boyfriend cheated on her yet again and she says she doesn’t know what to do. We’ve given her our own advice time and time again. When another friend is offered their dream job, but it comes with a pay cut and a move, we tell them what we would do and how we would make our mind up.
The thing is, our friend has the key to their own answers inside their heart and mind. Rather than giving them our personal solutions to take away as theirs, we should focus on leading them to their own answers. Engaging them in questions to find out how they would feel if their partner left them to be with this other female, how they would feel if they didn’t take the dream job, or what would be the biggest thing keeping them from making a decision one way or another all draw the answers from them.
I was reading Proverbs 20 today, verse 5 really stood out in line with this.
Though good advice lies deep within the heart, a person with understanding will draw it out.
While we all feel we have great, sound advice that we want to share, being a true friend requires us to draw the advice from our friend rather than giving our own. Insight is about asking the right questions, not offering up solutions. One of the best ways we can be a friend is through listening, drawing them out with questions, and supporting them as they navigate their own solutions.