Quick to hear…slow to speak…slow to anger. Those three phrases in James used to bother me. I had trouble with all three, especially the first one: “Quick to hear.” A better “translation” for me would have been, “Slow to listen…quick to speak…quick to get angry!” Notice that your “listening” starts and controls the whole rest of the cycle. First listening, then “words” and then your “emotions.”
What are the secrets to better listening skills?
1) I learned to VALUE PEOPLE.
- I felt like it wasted my time to listen to some people. They went “on and on” with basically nothing to say. Then, the switch turned on! “I’m hearing their inner heart. They are sharing their pain, their struggles, their STORY. I’m receiving the gift of their secret battles. This human being has a priceless story. I’m privileged to learn it in this moment.”
2) I learned to SHUT UP.
- I once was in a “conversation” with a person who never stopped talking for 15-20 minutes at a time. I tried, in vain, to interject a comment many times. They seemed to never even take a breath!
- That day cured me of “verbal monolog.” I’ve been guilty of that…as I’m sure most public speakers are! Now, I’ve entered into what Michael Hyatt calls, “verbal ping-pong”: “I say, then you say.” Read about that HERE.
3) I learned to THROTTLE MY EMOTIONS.
- When I’m mad, I don’t listen! My emotions have totally shut down my listening faculties. What’s worse, I hear things the offending party never said!
- Are you mad at someone? You will no longer listen to them. Calm down, settle down. Get your emotions in check. Then, ask them to fully explain their position before you even respond.
4) I learned to REPEAT THEIR MAIN POINTS OUT LOUD.
- “Wow, you are saying that you ____ ____ ____?” I’m giving them a verbal cue that I am tracking with them. I am also giving myself a mental note of a very important point in their discussion.
- “That’s a really great insight…!” My mind has comprehended something they said and I am repeating that back to them. GOOD LISTENING.
5) I learned to MAKE AN OUTLINE OR TIMELINE.
- When you are listening, make a mental outline: point “A,” point “B,” point “C.” If you don’t intentionally outline in your mind, everything they say starts running together.
- I also learned to make a mental “timeline.” When they are telling you a story, picture each “frame” as a significant part of the event. Your mind will replay the entire event, frame-by-frame. GOOD LISTENING.
6) I learned to GIVE THEM AT LEAST 5 MINUTES UNINTERRUPTED.
- 5 minutes seems like an eternity! It’s long enough, however, to hear a brief description of what they are trying to say.
- STOP THEM and ask a question every 5 minutes. This keeps them on track and your listening on track!
We can all listen better. What secret have you found that makes you a better listener, learner, and lover?