Our ears are a gateway into our souls.
To really understand the heart of a person, you must be
willing to listen to them. From the Christian perspective,
listening is a critical component of every aspect of our lives—from our communing in prayer with God to reconciling our differences with others. Listening is at the heart of everything we do. The Bible instructs us to be “quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger.” (James 1:19)
We must listen to hear what God and others are saying to us so that we can effectively act in a way that helps us build healthy relationships.
An engaged, thoughtful listener can open doors of healing and reconciliation in a relationship, while a defensive or offended listener can cause deeper wounds to form and shut down any possibility for healing and reconciliation.
Healthy relationships require healthy listening skills. Listening is a combination of feeling with our hearts and thinking with our mind. Jesus told his disciples to be careful what you hear (Mark 4:24) and to be careful how you hear (Luke 8:18).
Both are important when listening.
What we hear is very much connected to how we hear. This pamphlet will explore the different types of listeners and challenge you to become a thoughtful listener, for it is in this state where understanding, forgiveness and healing can take place.
So, the question becomes, what type of listener are you?
The Bible refers to 4 types of listener: the Defensive, the Offended, the Engaged an the Thoughtful. Here, we will look briefly at each type of listener.
This is the most difficult type of listener. Defensive listeners come to the conversation with an attitude that seeks to “defend” or justify his/her particular position and leaves little room for compromise. This type of listener has a response before hearing or understanding the whole matter.
It is evident even in their physical indicators. Defensive listeners tend to take a protective stance in conversation, folding their arms and/or legs and leaning away from the other person, sending the non-verbal signal of being shut off and closed to whatever is being presented.
Conversations with defensive listeners tend to be marked by a lot of interruptions, “no’s” and “but’s”. They tend to counter almost everything being said, talking over the other person and never gain insight or understanding to what the other person is trying to say.
Satan loves this type of listener because without understanding, there can never be reconciliation or peace.
Most common among Christians, this type of listener brings a spirit of offense to the conversation.
The Bible warns us that offenses will come” (Matthew 18:7), but how we handle that offense makes the difference in the outcome of our conversations.
At the heart of most offended listening is a past hurt that we have allowed to fester and become anger or bitterness. It doesn’t even have to be the person who hurt or offended us; the issue or topic may touch a place within us that has not healed.
This listener makes a conscious effort to heart and understand the complete message that is being sent. The intention is to take in that is being said without becoming defensive or offended.
This requires grace.
This type of listener hears the message, but often does not immediately respond, ruminating over what has been said, but oftentimes becoming offended after the fact.
This leads to one sided conversations, not with the other person, but rather with ourselves.
This type of listener doesn’t want to offend, but is him/herself offended. Left unchecked, this can turn into bitterness and resentment
towards the other person.
We can only have peace when we have it with ourselves and with others. The engaged
listener possesses a worthy goal of peace, but never truly attains that goals, because he/she does not resolve the conflict that sits at the root of things.
The Thoughtful Listener
This listener takes in the whole message by using clarity to what is being said and conveys a message of understanding by asking critical question to resolve any conflict. This takes practice and patience.
This listener’s heart, motivated by love, allows him/her to move past offense or anger and get to the root of the issues. In love he/she is able to give and receive correction in love, and by God’s grace, move to a place of reconciliation.
This takes time. A thoughtful listener is willing to revisit the issue as many times as necessary to bring healing into the relationship.
Without a hidden agenda, the thoughtful listener is able to receive what is being said and pushes through the barriers of hurt and offense to place of peace based on truth and rooted in love.
In Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4, he did not derail the
conversation, nor did he allow offense over race (Jew vs. Samaritan) or her marital status to keep him from speaking the truth to her in love. He got to the root of the issue and allowed her to maintain her dignity while telling her the truth about herself and her situation.
He listened. Then he spoke. As a result, her whole life changed, and Jesus and his disciples were allowed into another city to minister. A door was opened.
This is the type of listener we should all strive to be.
Check out our next blog to learn how to deal with each of these types of listeners...and how to avoid being a defensive or offended listener. You're on your way to becoming a better spouse, parent, co-worker, boss and friend as we learn to listen to truly hear the hearts and minds of others.