Are You Really Listening to Me?

I was asked recently to speak at a seminar on The Five Love Languages and my topic was Quality Time.

Gary Chapman, author of The Five Love Languages describes Quality Time as “giving someone your undivided attention” and that it is a “powerful emotional communicator of love.”

Giving people our attention communicates that we are interested in them and that we are also treating them with respect. But for some people, it is the primary way in which they both show and receive love.

This idea is borne out by the following two quotes, the first by Douglas Steere and the second by well- known counselor, David Augsburger:

“To listen to another’s soul… may be almost the greatest service that any human being ever performs for another.”

“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person they are almost indistinguishable.”

The similarity between the quotes is obvious because they both identify listening to another person as a key concept in giving someone quality time.

An ancient proverb also illustrates this by stating, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” (Prov. 20:5).

I have found in my own experience that the development of good listening skills is a journey that takes a lifetime.

So what are some simple skills that can assist us along the way?

Good listeners make good eye contact. When they listen to you, they look you in the eye.

They do not constantly glance at their watch, look over the top of your head when you are speaking, text on their phone or look disinterestedly around the room.

Good listeners engage with you by making eye contact with you, seeking to connect with you personally.

Looking someone in the eyes is risky because it makes both you and the other person vulnerable to each other’s emotions. When you look into another’s eyes you see their pain, sorrow, laughter and joy.

When we look into each other’s eyes when listening we develop empathy for and with the other person and this naturally progresses to greater intimacy.

Looking a person in the eyes also conveys acceptance. It’s a powerful, non-verbal way of saying, “I see you and I accept you!”

A word of warning, however – eye contact does not mean boring a hole into the person’s eyes. Good eye contact is done naturally and from time to time it needs to be broken otherwise you run the risk of looking like an unblinking robot, completely oblivious of everything else.

Good listeners repeat back what they have heard. It need not be a verbatim report, but reflecting back at appropriate times in the conversation what you have heard the other person say is an excellent way to communicate that you are listening to them.

Good listeners do not interrupt. This one needs no explanation – it is pretty straightforward. Proverbs declares that the wise person “uses words with restraint.”

Good listeners do not make quick assumptions or judgements about the other person.

How easy it is to fall into the trap of assuming that we know precisely why a person is feeling a certain way without listening to them fully.

Equally damaging is our propensity to judge a person’s motives without fully listening to their story.

Wrong assumptions and unfair judgements have led to the breakdown of many a relationship when a simple, well thought out question would have clarified the matter and most likely have preserved the marriage or friendship.

These skills are simple and straightforward, but as I said earlier, they take a lifetime to develop and master.

Giving someone your undivided attention is a great way to communicate love and value to them.

We all love to be heard – but what a priceless gift we bestow when we truly listen to the heart of another!