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For the next four Thursdays in June, women are invited to gather at the Princess Anne Country Club to learn about The Art of Listening.

I am in the middle of preparing one of the talks, and I am astounded by what I have learned about the complexities of listening.

Listening begins by hearing.  Sounds simple, right?  

In order for us to hear, our outer ear must gather the sound waves, send them into the middle ear where they are exposed to the hammer, anvil and drum and then these good vibrations hit the inner ear-the cochlea.  Our brain is able to make the distinction of different sounds.

Think about it, sound waves enter your ear and eventually your brain can differentiate between a chirping bird, your child’s voice and the noise of TV.  Instantaneously, we move from hearing a sound to listening to it.

We hear and listen all day, every day and we never think about their complexities.   Hearing and listening are very distinct experiences.

Hearing is one of our body’s senses and listening is a difficult discipline.

Hearing takes place 24/7-even while you sleep and listening happens only when you want to.

We have become a society of Lazy Listeners.  Our minds have to tune in and concentrate before we can really listen to people.  A good listener is very engaged because they have to process what they are hearing and think about what is being said.  This requires participation on the part of the listener.

We are lazy listeners these days because technology has replaced much of the time that we used to spend in conversations.  TV and the Internet have moved so quickly and we have lost our patience to endure or participate in thoughtful conversations.  We are out of practice!

Steps to help you become a loving listener.

1.     Focus, pay attention and concentrate on what is being said.

2.    Watch the person talking…. Listen with your eyes.  What is the person saying though their body language or facial expressions?  By watching them, you will hear so much more about what is actually being said. Look them in their eyes when they talk to you.

3.    Don’t interrupt.  It is rude.

4.    When you are listening, don’t get distracted by preparing your argument, or your own story. 

5.    It is so easy to assume that you know what is going to be said and you miss the whole point of what is actually being said.

As I have prepared this week,  I have been troubled by my lack of discipline as I listen.  Hurrying and careless, I don’t hear words like IF or BUT.   People can explain something to me-directions, game scores, or even personal stories and I immediately forget all that they said. Too many distractions. 

I quickly read an email or a text and don’t pay any attention to what was written.  So often, I am judgmental or emotional as I listen, and that causes me to shut down or tune out what is being said.

Overreacting or being too sensitive are some of my many listening killers.

My prayer and hope for the “Art of Listening”  is that all of us will become more aware of the times that we are lazy, out of practice or too sensitive and that we will work to tune in and focus on the person and the conversation.

Most of all, I hope that we will learn to listen to God’s way in our lives.  Can we hear His still, small voice?   His guidance will lead us to excellence in all things.  I don’t want to miss all that He has in store for me.

“Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger”-How can there be any better listening instruction than from the Bible, James 1:19?

And so, my children, listen to me, for all who follow my ways are joyful.  Listen to my counsel.  Don’t ignore it. Joyful are those who listen to me.  Proverbs 8:32-33 

Promises us JOY, if we follow God’s ways.  What a promise!