Conversation is, at minimum, a dialogue where two or more people communicate verbally. This makes talking and listening equal partners. Attentive listening is an essential element of successful conversation, but, unfortunately a mostly undeveloped skill. Needless to say, this is one of the main causes for misunderstanding between people. So much is often communicated unspoken in the context, between sentences, and only the skilled listener will be able to perceive those hidden messages. Mastering the skill of listening makes for intelligent conversation! No wonder the Bible has something to say about it:
So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak. (James 1:19)
Giving another person the courtesy of your time and attention while they talk creates a respectful bond between people. Respect is the basic material upon which every satisfying relationship is built. Where one person does most of the talking, the chance of strengthening a relationship will be slim, to say the least. There is no demand for domineering conversation partners, and they are seldom respected. However, a listening ear will always be highly valued. Continual talking implies that the other person is either ignorant or not worthy of your attention. Bear in mind, Christians are encouraged to always edify others.
In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise. (Proverbs 10:19)
Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. (Proverbs 29:20)
In fruitful conversation with another person, always listen well and comment carefully, but thinking what you will say next while the other person is talking is impolite and it will most probably lead to misunderstanding or an argument in the end. When you don’t fully understand what is being said, it is always good to ask what the other person meant, or to comment “I hear you say…” and then repeat what you heard in your own words.
He who has knowledge spares his words, and a man of understanding is of a calm spirit. (Proverbs 17:27)
Every conversation has implicit and explicit messages. Understanding the explicit message is usually quite easy, but an implied message is generally harder to hear. The reason why people hold back from communicating explicitly may be fear of confrontation, fear of embarrassment or it may be for diplomatic reasons – the reasons are actually innumerably varied – but it is widely practiced and part and parcel of everyday communication. This is where focused listening pays wonderful dividends. Careful listening prevents hasty comments that usually stir up anger in a conversation. “You are not listening to me!” is a far too common phrase in conversation, and it usually doesn’t end well.
Consider the following:
• Answering before listening is both stupid and rude. (Proverbs 18:13 – The Message)
• Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. (Stephen Covey, Author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”)
• It takes a great man to be a good listener. (Calvin Coolidge, Thirtieth President of the USA)
• An appreciative listener is always stimulating. (Agatha Christie)
• You can’t fake listening. It shows. (Raquel Welch)