There’s an old proverb that goes, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and shame.” Yet, how many of us do just that! When people are talking to us, we’re watching for that split second when their lips clamp shut so we can start talking and give them the benefit of our great wisdom. In fact, sometimes we just interrupt. I guess that’s because what we have to say is so much more important than what they are saying, right?
Well, the fact is. that old proverb is from the Bible—Proverbs 18:13, to be exact. And we would do well to recognize its truth. Many, if not most, of our problems in communication are the result of a failure to really listen to people. Often we have our minds made up before we ever hear what they have to say. We’re more interested in giving them our opinion than in understanding theirs.
James wrote, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). What great advice! Truly listening to your husband or wife, your teen or your employee or your friend is one of the best gifts you can give. Listening says, “I care about you. I value your opinion. I want to understand you.”
I admit that sometimes the reason we don’t listen is that the other person has chosen the wrong time to talk. Setting the time and place and the circumstances is critically important if you want someone to listen to you—not when your husband is watching his favorite sports program on TV, or thirty minutes before guests are arriving for dinner, or your teen has just crawled out of bed in the morning and hasn’t quite entered the real world.
Listening is the most important part of the communication process. Living Bible puts it quite bluntly: “What a shame--yes, how stupid!--to decide before knowing the facts!” Are you listening?