Have you ever experienced a time when you were trying to share something that was weighing on your heart, only to be quickly brushed off? Or perhaps worse, a time when you were completely ignored?
Ouch that stings…no, that just plain hurts. A hurt that can lead to a slow recovering ache. A pain that causes us to really rethink who we talk to and what we talk to them about.
Sometimes it really is the hard times that make us recognize the blessings we have. It’s the being ignored or brushed off that can make us so deeply grateful for those who slow down, listen and take notice us of. It is a joy to be heard.
I bet all of us can picture a conversation where we are speaking to another person in an attempt to communicate with them about something that is very important to us. It could be something we are excited about, scared of, anxious for, or maybe something we are just trying to process. As we are sharing a precious and vulnerable piece of us, we are not sure if the other party is perceiving any sound at all. They are physically present, but mentally who knows where they are at.
Or perhaps the person you are talking to heard about one sentence before they began strategically planning how to hijack the conversation. Maybe they had a story that they needed to share that just could not wait. Perhaps that had a piece of prescriptive advice they were ready to dole out without knowing all the symptoms. It could be they felt they had enough information to make a two cent final judgment on the situation. Possibly they just wanted to make a u-turn, changing the subject back in their direction.
That is annoying. And frustrating.
If truth be told, I know with 100% accuracy that I am guilty of being that u-turning, judgemental, conversation hijacking annoying person. I admit that fully. I would like to think I am a few steps into that recovery process, but I, too, have my good, bad and ugly days.
I just want to take a moment to say, I am sorry. To any of you reading who I have done that to, I’m so sorry. If I recognized I was doing this, I hope I apologized directly. I am even more sorry if I was oblivious to the frustration my actions caused. Thank you for your grace.
Knowing that I have done dumb things & made a whole host of communication mistakes, and knowing how annoying and hurtful is it to experience people who do not really listen, I have added a new goal to my ambition regimen to become a stronger listener.
Practice makes progress.
Do you know who some of the most amazing people to listen to are?
Kids. They have great stories. Big stories. Little stories. Dramatic stories. Stories of awe and wonder over the smallest things. Not only that, but they have a great willingness to share their stories. I frequently find that if I plop myself down beside a child and pay attention to them, stories will come gushing out like a full pressure fire hose.
You just never know what kids will say. I think that is one of the traits that makes listening to them such a joy.
Perhaps we too greatly devalue the amazing listeners of the world. This is probably because we do not name them in lights. Great speakers, absolutely. But those speakers are only valuable because there are listeners in the audience. Just like these words that I write. They serve a value to me, but wow does that value multiply when readers like you engage with these words.
How much more well rounded are we if we could be incredible listeners in addition to speakers and writers? Think of the wondrous things great listeners have heard? What value they have to share! Is there a balance that we can find between the extremes?
I have observed that remarkable listeners ask great questions. They have a knack for keeping the speaker speaking. But, it does not mean that is all they are good for. Listeners have a large number of things going on in their lives too.
The finest conversations are two way tangos, twisting and turning to a beautiful tune.
Is Anyone Listening?
What about those times when it feels as if no one is really listening? Times when conversations feel more like a trudging, tripping and tumbling mess than textbook tango for two.
Those times when you sit across from someone and you ask them question after question about their family, their work, their life but they ask you nothing in return. Or worse they replace questions with assumptive statements, “You must be _____________” or “I’m sure you are ____________”. Fill the the blanks with whatever blah, blah, blah assumption you would like.
What do we do with this frustration, annoyance and pain?
Take it to the Lord.
"In my distress I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears." Psalm 18:6 (NIV)
The Lord is the best listener of all. Listening not just to sound and word, but listening to hurt and heart as well.
"You Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry." Psalm 10:17 (NIV)
God does not just hear, He listens. God does not just listen, He responds. He responds with encouragement and He responds with support.
What you have to say is valuable and important. Your stories are of great worth. That which excites or scares you, the things that make you anxious or the circumstances that you are just trying to process, they are all precious to the Lord. He is a God who loves deeply, gives generously and listens completely.
You never know, He may even bless you with the listening ears of a friend who also cares enough to ask you many questions, to let you speak your part, and to listen with open ears to hear your heart. What an encouragement listening offers.
It is such a joy to be heard!
Beloved and Treasured Lord,
Thank You so much for listening. Thank You for turning Your ear to us. Thank you for listening to the ups, the downs and the in-betweens. Thank You for responding to what we say with encouragement and support.
Lord, it hurts when we attempt to be vulnerable and share only to be ignored, brushed off, or judged. Please help us to be reassured that You would not do that to us. You are available for the big decisions and the smallest details, replying with care and concern.
Thank You so much for the amazing and incredible listeners out there. The ones who care enough to ask, who are patient enough to wait out the answers and who protect the confidence of what was shared. Grow and develop us to be more like You so that we may uplift others by blessing them with the joy of being heard.
In the name of Jesus, amen.