Listening for Growth
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Cease to hear instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.—Proverbs 19:271
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.—Proverbs 12:152
My son, be attentive to my wisdom; incline your ear to my understanding, that you may keep discretion, and your lips may guard knowledge.—Proverbs 5:1–23
For one day, try to say as little as possible. Try to keep the focus away from yourself. Where you’re tempted to tell a story, ask a question. Where you’re tempted to say, “Oh, that same thing happened to me... ,” ask, “How did that make you feel?” … At the end of the day, make a list of everything that you learned. How much would you have missed if you had spent the time talking about yourself?—Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval4
My first rule of conversation is this: I never learn a thing while I’m talking. I realize every morning that nothing I say today will teach me anything, so if I’m going to learn a lot today, I’ll have to do it by listening. …
Remember the signs you see at railroad crossings in small towns and rural areas: “Stop-Look-Listen.” Show the people you talk to that you’re interested in what they’re saying. They will show you the same.—Larry King with Bill Gilbert5
Good listening takes effort. Notice the traits of the people whom you enjoy talking to, the good listeners. They show their interest with their eyes, posture, and the ways they react. It’s a sort of indescribable mood that says, “I enjoy listening to you. You’re important to me.” A calmness and patience about them tells you, “Take your time. I have nothing more vital to do at the moment than to hear what you have to say.”
Listening is one way to better fulfill the “law of Christ,” which the Bible sums up as “loving your neighbor as yourself.”6 By listening to others in order to understand them, we are doing God’s work with a form of God’s love.—Author unknown
We ought to get profit from criticism. Two pairs of eyes should see more than one. None of us have all the wisdom there is in the world. However wise any of us may be, there are others who know some things better than we know them, and who can make valuable and helpful suggestions to us, at least concerning some points of our work. The shoemaker never could have painted the picture, but he could criticize the buckle when he stood before the canvas which the great artist had covered with his noble creations; and the artist was wise enough to welcome the criticism and quickly amend his picture, to make it correct. … He would be a very foolish painter who would sneer at [others’] suggestions and refuse to profit by them.
The same is true in other things besides art. No one’s knowledge is really universal. None of us know more than a few fragments of the great mass of knowledge. There are some things somebody else knows better than you do, however wide your range of intelligence may be. There are very humble people who could give you suggestions well worth taking on certain matters concerning which they have more correct knowledge than you have. If you wish to make your work perfect, you must be willing to take hints and information from anyone and everyone who may be ready to give it to you.
It is true, also, that others can see faults and imperfections in us which we ourselves cannot see. We are too closely identified with our own life and work to be unprejudiced observers or just critics. We can never make the most and the best of our life if we refuse to be taught by anyone other than ourselves. A self-made man is very poorly made, because he is the product of only one man’s thought. The strong things in his own individuality are likely to be emphasized to such a degree that they become idiosyncrasies, while on other sides his character is left defective. The best-made man is the one who in his formative years has the benefit of wholesome criticism. His life is developed on all sides. Faults are corrected. His nature is restrained at the points where the tendency is to overgrowth, while points of weakness are strengthened. We all need, not only as a part of our education, but in all our life and work, the corrective influence of the opinions and suggestions of others.—J. R. Miller7
Leaders often love to talk. They enjoy listening to their own great pearls of wisdom and insight. Sometimes they even begin to believe their own press reports. And as they gain more authority, they have less reason to listen to subordinates. … The more people you lead, the more you must listen. Effective leadership has more to do with listening than with talking. Leaders by their very nature tend to be removed from the front lines of battle in the organization. Therefore, they must listen to those who are in the trenches, and rely on that information to make wise decisions.
Nothing stops the progress of an organization more quickly than leaders failing to listen. Like hardening of the arteries, hardening of the categories, [being too rigid and having] a closed mind will destroy a leader’s credibility. Followers want to communicate with their leaders. If you fail to listen to them, their very effectiveness and job satisfaction will be in jeopardy.—Hans Finzel8
I am the Good Shepherd and I care for My sheep—and I care for you in a very personal way. When no other earthly counselor is available, I am able to guide you by My hand. Yet I know the frame of man, and I know that you were created to need others. You have an inborn need to communicate, to counsel, to seek the help of others, to seek prayer with others. Through this I lead you, guide you, and teach you priceless, valuable lessons.
A wise man, a prosperous man, will seek godly counsel, for in this counsel is safety. By wise counsel purposes are established, and in the multitude of counselors there is safety.—Jesus, speaking in prophecy
Published on Anchor March 2015. Read by Irene Quiti Vera.
Music by Michael Dooley.
4 The Power of Nice (New York: Doubleday, 2006).
5 How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime, Anywhere (New York: Crown Publishers, 1995).
6 Galatians 5:14; Matthew 22:37–39.
7The Building of Character (Thomas Y. Crowell, 1894).
8 The Top Ten Mistakes Leaders Make (Colorado Springs: Cook Communications Ministries, 2007).