Our conversations about listening this month have really reminded me about the value of being a good communicator. If you’re really a good listener you’ll know how to ask questions that clarify what someone else is talking about, you’ll know how to talk to others in a way that doesn’t offend but still communicates your point, you’ll know how to communicate something in a concise but not too brief fashion and you’ll know when to shut up. Presentations, events and speeches aside, the majority of what we do should be listening and thinking. Why? Because there’s lots of things being said in the world and too many aren’t helpful and only add to the overall noise.
As you can tell I’m a writer, and I love to think and talk about communication. Whenever an issue is brought up by a client about a situation in their life or business one of my first questions is about something communication related, because all too often it’s a lack of communication or a miscommunication that created or exacerbated the issue. Of course communication does largely depend on being able to speak the same language and understand each other, two things that are prevalent challenges in our world, whether you’re a police officer trying to take a report or a parent trying to understand your son/daughter who has autism.
I’ve read many a book or article and heard some speeches that I’ve thought were too short and definitely could have been longer (or I would have enjoyed the story continuing). But I’ve also run into a few books, some articles, and too many speakers that run on and on and I’m exhausted by the time they’ve finished, if I even made it that far. Which is what we’re focusing on today, the value of using fewer rather than more words. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t completely explain the situation or that it’s OK to talk in one and two word sentences (if you can call them that).
We all can work on learning how to communicate in a way that gets our point across, answers the question, is polite to those listening, doesn’t wander or go on many tangents, doesn’t waste precious time, and takes into account the very short attention span of many people. God has given us the ability to speak and communicate with each other, are you respecting and honoring Him with your words?
“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27
Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.
As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.
Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.
If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.
Something I often say is that I don’t need to be everything to everyone. I have no problem admitting I don’t know everything about a particular topic, like spirituality, relationships or business. I can’t say I have a real interest to know everything either. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to be done learning or that I’m not willing to learn any more, because both of those would be big lies. I’m always interested in learning something new. I subscribe to dozens of daily newsletters on a variety of topics so that I can keep learning.
I’m curious, I like to watch TV and see how people do things, how they think, and even how crazy they are sometimes. I like to sit in a busy location and watch people go by. I like to read books and watch/listen to educational programs and so that I can be exposed to different ideas, new strategies, new ways of thinking and even things that will keep my imagination and curiosity alive.
So I’ll never give up learning and am always open to seeing things from a different perspective, trying things a different way or listening to what others have to say. But I’m not learning with the intention to be the absolutely exhaustive fount of knowledge on each and every topic. I don’t feel the need to know everything first because it’s probably not possible as we’re always learning new things and discovering new ways of exploring and analyzing. Second, there are billions of people in the world who also have great knowledge and when we bring our knowledge together not only do we combine what we know, we make the world a better place by choosing to work together.
The more you know the more connections you can make, more possibilities that will open to you and more ways you can make a difference. What will you learn today?
Today I’ve been thinking about one of the earlier references to Samuel that we know of in the Bible. It’s when he’s bedded down for the night at the temple and he hears a voice (you can read the whole story in 1 Samuel 3). The voice calls to him, he thinks it’s the priest but it’s not. The third time this happens the priest realizes God is calling Samuel and tells him to say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” Of course what goes on to happen is God calls to Samuel again, tells him some important information and then continues to talk with Samuel for the rest of his life and ministry. I encourage you to explore the story for yourself, but I want to highlight a few things that stand out to me today.
First, God’s persistence. I find it interesting that God didn’t give up on the first or second try, He really wanted to speak with Samuel, and He was willing to be patient enough to make it happen. In some ways I think God was patient because of Samuel’s young age, but in other ways I think He would be equally patient for us if we showed active willingness to listen.
Second, the message. The message, given to this young boy (some research estimates he was about 12 at the time), wasn’t all roses and sunshine. I think what amazes me most is that God knew the plan He had for Samuel, knew he could handle a message like this and didn’t sugar coat it just because he was young. I know I’m more inclined to protect the young and not share the horrors and reality of the world with them, but at the same time I know it’s important that they don’t grow up with rose colored glasses and have a jarring reality check when they become adults.
Finally, Samuel was honest about the message. As we’ve discussed it wasn’t a fantastic message, but when he was asked about it by the priest, he was honest about it, even though there was some not great news for the priest in it. I don’t like delivering bad news as an adult, so I can’t imagine how difficult it was to deliver that news as a pre-teen. But again, God knew what He was doing and Samuel passed along the message.
As you go about your life this week I encourage you to be persistent and honest, work on trusting others, communicating with others and listening both for God and to what others have to say.
Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.
I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.
Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.
I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?
In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up. We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers. But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.
There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice. That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone. But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck. I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.
Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do. It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck. If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.
No, not everything is relevant to everyone. It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it. Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation. Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you. Ask them to address the specific concerns you have. And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.
No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time. Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.
Would you consider yourself an angry person? How about someone who has lots of friends (real friends, those you actually know personally)? Would those who know you say that you’re a generous person? These are important things to know because like it or not we all deal with other people every day. Sometimes we interact with those we know and other times we interact with strangers. But whether the person is a stranger or a friend shouldn’t impact how you generally act towards them; for example, just because they’re a stranger doesn’t mean you should disrespect or ignore them. No, you may not give them a hug when you meet them like you might a friend, but you’ll still be civil to them.
But there are those who are overly suspicious of everything and everyone else, those who see the world as a half-empty glass, and those who believe that there aren’t many good people in the world. We all have our bad days and misunderstandings or miscommunications, but that’s no reason to assume that the rest of the world is all bad and treat them as such.
You may not fall into the category of those who believe most of the world is bad, but you may have fallen into the habit of being snarky or treating friends in a certain (less than polite) way and it spills over to how you interact with everyone else you meet. You may not even realize you’re doing it.
But James 1:19b reminds us to: “…be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” I’m going to pay more attention to how I interact with others this week. You know why? Because it’s not just about those we personally and currently know, it’s about those we meet and the role they may play in our lives in our future too. You don’t know what role a stranger you meet today may have in your life several weeks or months down the road, but if it’s a negative interaction they have with you now that may ruin the opportunities you could have with them in the future. How do you treat others?