Archive for February, 2014

February 6, 2014

Listening From The Heart and More


Listening is a heart and mind matter for both the speaker and the listener. Scripture makes a distinction between hearing (sound) and listening (understanding the heart).

The Chinese symbol for Listen goes even farther:


            The character for “Listen” (the imperative or commanding tense) has five components:

1)      The Ear

2)      The Eyes

3)      The Mind or Spirit

4)      The Focus (or Center)

5)      The Heart (sometimes combinded with Spirit)

This is different from the Western concept of listening. The Greco-Roman system left us with knowing about something as opposed to knowing something experientially or, dare I say, knowing something intimately. In Judeo-Christian theology (A middle-eastern religion actually) listening is done with the whole person, slowing down the process so that understanding can really occur. Here lies knowing intimately what the other person is experiencing.

Going back to our Chinese character we can take each component and see what it can teach us.

1)      The Ear. This may seem obvious, but actively hearing the other person and making sure you have the facts straight as THEY see them is important. Getting the words straight can be a great beginning. Note the following word trick.

GODISNOWHERE  or GODISNOWHERE.   How you interpret it may largely depend on your feelings about God.

It is also important to hear the voices or noises when the speaker describes an event or conversation. This is the mind’s ear and if you connect it to your heart, it really deepens your experience of what the other person is saying.

2)      The Eyes. One of the greatest management guru’s, Ken Blanchard, said,  “Take a minute out of everyday to look at your staff” (e.g. The One Minute Manager). This alone can change your management effectiveness. Looking at and reading someone’s body language can make all the difference in the world. Research shows that people who are good at reading body language are some of the best communicators.

Also imagining with your mind’s eye what the other person is describing. Use your imagination to create the scene. It will add to the realism and help create more empathy.

3)      The Spirit. Are you listening to the attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs of the other person and seeing them as a child of God? This keeps the other person human. Not all good nor all bad but another pilgrim on a journey just like you.

4)      The Focus. Here is the power in listening: Focusing on what the other person is really saying and feeling. Not what you think they are saying per se, but what they think they are saying no matter how crazy it may seem to you. If you are really focused you should be able to repeat back to them both their point of view and how they feel about what they are saying and the circumstances they are describing.

5)      The Heart. Here lies the empathy index. “What would you feel or think if you experienced the same thing the speaker is describing?” Keep asking this question, using what you would feel as an index and keep checking it out with the speaker in a non-judgmental way. With your Spirit, you can put your self aside and really listen to the other persons experience no matter how wrong it may seem.

The Bible fluffs the concept out even more:


He who answers before listening— that is his folly and his shame.Proverbs 18:12-14


Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-3


My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,James 1:18-20


But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.James 1:24-26


Listening is a skill that must be intentional and practiced at every opportunity. Be focused, put your own story on the shelf, wait to explain yourself, wait to defend yourself, another person, an organization or a belief and give feedback using feeling words. Invite more information and ask for an expansion on ideas or feelings while waiting to share where and when you have felt the same way they do.



Listening Tips


Pay Attention to Your Partner

1 Maintain eye contact and face him or her.


2 Eliminate distractions.  Turn your attention toward your partner and away from any other focus or tasks (washing dishes, watching TV, etc.)


3 Use “encouragers” –head nods, “uh-hum”, “yes”, “really!”, “go on!” to show you are listening and interested.


Develop an Attitude of Acceptance

4 Focus on understanding the facts and point-of-view your partner is expressing.  (Remember, you can understand even if you don’t agree.)


5 Listen for feelings (between the lines, if necessary)


Put Your Empathy and Understanding into Words

6 Repeat in your own words what your partner has said.  This lets them know they are heard and understood.  Summarize or paraphrase your partner’s message, to check for accurate understanding.  Validate or support their feelings and thoughts to show understanding and empathy.

7 Start your responses something like…

·        “It seems like you’re saying…”

·        “What you’ve said so far…”

·        “What I understand is that…”

·        “What I hear you saying is…”

·        “So you must be feeling… (frustrated, scared, alone, etc.)”

·        “Did I get that right?  Is there anything else?”


8 Offer feedback describing what you (as listener) feel or think only after you have summarized and validated your partner’s communication.