Listening Exchange: To Really Just Listen

People only listen to you when you listen first.

I know we hate that idea.  We don’t think of “exchanging” communication like exchanging favors.  It doesn’t seem fair, because we expect to have a voice just by raising it with aggressive passion.  I do that all the time.

But people will naturally listen to you if you make an effort to hear them out.  No one wants to hear someone who is half-interested or in a hurry or talking their own faces off. 

Simply: if you’re not hearing others, don’t expect to be listened to.

This requires you to place yourself in their debt.  In their shoes.  Eye-to-eye, chair-to-chair, without wavering.

It means we have to earn respect.  To really care about their lives.  To invest an ear in their story.  To throw your heart into their struggle.  To roll up your sleeves in their mess.

I get this wrong a lot, and I messed it up just the other day.  I assumed too much and went into theology lecture-mode and laid down really great advice.  I think I said some awesome things, except I missed the big picture and went on too long and ended up with a foot-shaped mouth.  The only way to clean up my spew of doctrine was to shut my face and listen.

If you’re tired of people not listening to you, not respecting you, not hearing you: maybe it’s because when you walk into a room, you are thinking of what people can do for you.  You could be thinking the room is in your debt. 

I believe we’re instead called to ask ourselves, What can I do to help right now?  How can I serve these people here?  How can I love them?

Not because they are projects.  Not as some slick agenda to enforce our opinions.  Not some reverse-psychology subterfuge to win our side.  But because you actually love people regardless of how they much they hear you.  Because loving people is now who we are.  It’s how Jesus loved.  It’s how he listens, and I pray we do likewise.

— J.S.

6 thoughts on “Listening Exchange: To Really Just Listen

  1. My dad works with people who’s particular consequences of the Fall are more obvious than most. Many of them tell him no one has ever listened to them until he did.
    There have been lots of times I come home from a time with someone new and realize I don’t know hardly anything about them. Why? Because I forgot to listen and ask questions.
    Thanks for the reminder. 🙂


  2. There are two types of people. Those who listen, and those who wait to talk. For much of my life, I waited to talk. I cannot tell you how much richer life has become since I started listening. Don’t have it perfected yet (and probably never will) but it has rocked my world and given me a chance to really…REALLY…mean something to somebody.


    1. Same here. I used to be a terrible listener. It’s also such delicate timing. And the other side of the equation is that there are some people who DO talk too much and someone needs to cut in a bit — and we shouldn’t be afraid to speak up when necessary.


  3. Isn’t it wonderful that God listens to our prayers! And then gives the answer that has the most benefit. Even when people listen their answer too often is to advise, to show how much they know (one up on the first person), how much more miserable their problem is to the one just stated…
    God blessed me because I conducted my first funeral service when I was 19, with only 1 year of Bible College. I had no idea what to do so I sat in the funeral home through the hours of visitation, helpless. Afterwards everyone thanked me for all I did, which confused me even more. Then I realized all I did was sit for hours listening. How great was that of God to throw me in the deep water and and watch me “drown” when really I was learning to swim!
    The gift of listening cannot be overstated, so thanks for raising that.


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