Listening

It usually takes me a few weeks to recover from a three-week assignment with the Army – 13 hour days for 21 days can wreak havoc on your mental state. There are several great take a ways from each of these exercises that I do. As I write my last reference to it, I want to focus on the people and leadership styles that I’ve witnessed or observed. There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we speak. This reminds me of people who interrupt others because they have the answer before someone even finishes asking the question. The use of the phrase “right, right” seems to have infiltrated our society today.

People don’t seem to want to let you finish what you are saying and this phrase apparently gives them permission to cut you off by agreeing with you – twice no less. Everything, and I mean everything, is available in short bursts or precisely when you want it. Twitter lets people share their thoughts in 140 or less characters. Virtual assistants on smart phones get you information which saves you the effort of having to “Google it”. We are loosing our ability to listen – really listen. We need to take the time to look people in the eye and listen to what they are saying. Don’t focus on what you’re going to say next or make assumptions about what they are trying to say or jump to the end because you think faster than they do. Listen, smile, pay attention and really hear what they are saying.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

God’s people just didn’t get it when he was writing this. In fact, many today still don’t get it. God was saying, “I know what they will need before they ask and I will always listen.” This is one of His great promises – speak to me and I will listen. It’s important to note, He didn’t say “I will fix it” or “I will answer you right away” but He WILL listen.

It’s often hard for us to separate listening from answering. God’s time frame is different than ours. God wants to hear from His children, He knows what is on our hearts but He wants to hear what is on your mind. Tell Him what you are thinking in prayer. God will meet your basic needs; that’s Him answering before we call. He wants to hear ALL of our worries, concerns, appreciations, thanks and our needs. He will order things in our lives according to His will, not ours. If you think He isn’t answering, perhaps you are not being patient enough or you simply don’t see the answers/solutions present in your life. God hears it all, it’s usually us who fail recognize His work.

 

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Shine the Light

Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. In fact, I have a book on the subject of Listening; a huge part of communicating. On the scene of a fire, due to its high level of danger, we have an “order model” to prescribe how we are to communicate. It essentially says that the receiver of the message will acknowledge the message by repeating it back to the sender. “Command to Engine 1. Take a hose line to the second floor. Engine will call back: “Engine 1 copies, take a hose line to the second floor.” There is no room for misunderstandings when lives are on the line. Yet, how many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? Leaders need to keep communications open with their people too. Some call it “touching base” and others call it “checking in”. Today, change is constant and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be communicating with them in other ways. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true. Keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders.

“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2

Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If you are still not sure, close your Face Book page or Twitter account for 15 minutes and look up witnessing tips. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!

 

Communicate Understanding

Good communication skills are critical to the success of any leader. Leaders must not only hear but be heard and when this doesn’t happen, the trouble starts. There are several communication techniques that work fairly well and all that focus on the needs of the receiver, not the sender. As the sender of information, your goal is to have the receiver understand the message and be able to do something with it; learn from it, use/apply it, store it for reference or reply to it. As a leader you have the responsibility to ensure that your messages are being understood. Sometimes we can see in the receiver’s eyes or on their face that they didn’t clearly understand what we wanted them to. We have to send it in a manner that they understand.

If the message is of great importance, a good tool to use is one in which you have them repeat it back to you in their words to confirm understanding. This form of mirroring occurs naturally in our mind and should not be construed as an insult if you deliver it with care. The best way to reach your people is to find out how they need to be communicated with. Some people like plenty of detail, while others just want the big picture and will take care of it from there. Do you know how you need to be communicated with? Some leaders are so busy that they request things via e-mail or report and others want short, yet detailed verbal encounters. Every person is different and you are no exception, make sure your people know what you need while you are finding out what they need.

Proverbs 16:22 – “Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it…”

The bible teaches in Romans 10:9-10 us that the gift of eternal life comes from believing in Jesus Christ and professing that faith to others. What is your understanding? How well do you know the promises of God in the bible? The bible urges us to seek greater understanding of God’s word and use the examples given to us by Jesus as a guide for our lives. How do we improve our understanding of the Word? Daily devotions, bible study and regular worship are great places to start. Find the tools that work for you. It may take a lot of searching for you to find the right devotional or bible study but when you do, seize it and work to seek understanding. Study bibles offer a great glimpse into the meaning behind the Word and the connections that are made between bible verses. You’ll spend a lifetime seeking understanding, remembering that it is the “fountain of life” and you’ll have all of eternity to enjoy it.