Paying Attention:

Paying Attention: How To Listen So People Will Talk

The problem: Nobody’s listening

Nobody ever listens to me.

Have you ever heard anyone say that? Have you ever said it?

In today’s world, there is an explosion of voices clamoring for attention. Cable TV and talk radio have proliferated; the Internet has enabled everyone who wants to do so to become a content provider. More and more people have something to say, as evidenced in the explosion of the blogosphere. Everybody’s talking. Is anyone listening?

Of course, technology provides an answer, in some measure. Search engines assure us that if anyone is interested in what we have to say on a given topic, they can find it: one of perhaps 18,756,000 hits on a topic search. Do we take comfort that our conversations are monitored by the government, or industry, if only for data collection purposes? Most likely there is more discomfort than comfort there. No, when we talk, you and I, we would like a human ear; someone to pay attention.

It’s rather amazing when you think about it. Everyone is talking, but people are starving for someone to actually listen. We are virtually drowning in a sea of voices, but listening is fast becoming an endangered art. If you can give someone your full attention and really listen to them, you will have made a friend, and will have given an incalculable gift. But listening, truly listening, is not so easy as it seems. Some people seem never to do it at all. Some see no need for it. It is an art, and ultimately a personal and spiritual discipline. We’re going to talk, here, about the art of listening.

The wise listen; fools won’t keep quiet

The ancient collection of wise sayings known as Proverbs repeats by many variations a few themes, contrasting the actions of the wise and foolish person.  One of these themes can be paraphrased/summarized as “A wise person keeps quiet and listens, while a fool runs his mouth.”
Listening implies learning and teachability

“Instruct a wise man, and he will be yet wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.” (Proverbs 9:9).

“The true opposite of knowledge is not ignorance, but presumption of knowledge.” – Friedrich Shcleiermacher

Appreciation: Listening raises the value of both hearer and speaker.
Where listening starts: Silence

  1. ⁃ The difference between listening and waiting for one’s turn to talk
  2. ⁃ Stopping the world
  3. ⁃ Hearing someone for the first time

Prayer as a listening art: Be still, and know

  1. ⁃ The still, small voice

The God who listens

  • . Listening to God

Listening as an act of love

  • Faith comes by hearing

Epilogue: A time to speak