It happens way more than I’d like to admit. Recognizing this tendency in myself has caused dread and anxiety to well up at times…. and more often than not it leads to regret.
What is this horrible flaw in my personality? What horrible sin have I allowed to take root in my heart?
I don’t listen with care.
Sure I listen to hear what someone is saying. I tune my attention to their points and their needs but sometimes my role as pastor/leader makes me think more of my answer than the person who is speaking.
Have you been there? Mid-sentence your brain kicks in and you realize I just started answering them, giving advice and direction before I ever really understood what they were looking for.
I have my own thoughts, ideas, and opinions and I love when people agree with me (who doesn’t!). Yet, I have found that instead of listening to understand I will listen to take offense. I’ll read posts on social media and instantly my blood is boiling over someone else’s post-instead of seeking to understand their perspective I write them off.
They just don’t get it. They haven’t had the experiences that I have had. I should correct their thinking. When I refuse to listen with care I cause division where it is not necessary.
Yeah. It’s a problem.
As pastors and leaders we’re very accustomed to people asking us our thoughts. If we stop listening with care we run the risk of taking a posture of knowing it all. Our vocation lends itself to being sought as the final authority on all subjects from parenting to theology to politics and back again. I challenge you to pay special attention to your listening over the next week or so. I hope you will find a kindness and carefulness in your approach.
If, like me, you notice a quickness to answer, direct or to take offense then, may I suggest you put into practice a few listening tricks:
- Stop talking…Pause. Take an extra breath so you can hear all that is being communicated.
- Remove distractions…I often meet in public places with people; to avoid distractions I put my phone away, I position myself at the table so that whoever I am talking to has my full attention and I will often pick a table away from the line or the door.
- Empathize…Seek to understand cultural, economical and familial background. When we seek to understand where someone comes from we can often understand why they would say what they are saying.
- Listen for ideas-not just words…Be aware that some words may cause you discomfort. Don’t stop listening because they use a word that has baggage or negative meaning to you.
Pastors, are you being careful with how you listen? My prayer for each of us is that we would be quick to listen with love and care.