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.

 

The Mouth Speaks…

Words matter. I made this statement a few weeks ago during a city budget discussion and have repeated it during my latest assignment. I’m finding that I need to listen more carefully and speak less frequently but more specifically. I don’t ever want to find myself excusing something I said because of a “Clinton technicality”. He based his whole answer about the Monica Lewinski affair on the word – relations. I won’t go any further except to say that he wasn’t lying when he described his affair by saying “he didn’t have relations with her”. It certainly split hairs though. Words matter when you are dealing with people. Each one of us has a different interpretation of various words and each word can elicit a different emotion for different people. Knowing your audience or the receiver is important before you start to speak.

Who are you speaking to and on what subject is very important in helping you make good word choices. If you are speaking with someone as a supervisor or need to give direction or take corrective action, your word choice is critical to express the seriousness of your intent. The tone and inflection of your voice are also important to the delivery of your intended message. “You sounded mad when you said that” is a common complaint of teens with their parents. Take the time necessary to gather your thoughts and choose the words that convey your message before you speak. If you find that you are frequently having misunderstandings with people or that you are explaining yourself in greater detail more often, re-think your word choice and how you deliver your message. The people receiving your message don’t know what you are “trying” to say, they only know what you’ve said.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

People that you see on a regular basis always seem to know when you are having a bad day or are just not at the top of your game. They also know when you are playing to the crowd, which is not a completely honest way of dealing with people. The good stored in your heart is a gift from God. Truthfulness, compassion and caring are things that we learned from the actions and teachings of Jesus.

Some people can “play to the crowd” very well and say one thing in public but say another behind closed doors. God is always watching and knows what is on your heart. Sooner or later the truth or the “real person” is revealed. Keep your heart stored up with good by being surrounded with the good of this world. Maintain fellowship with other Christians; regularly attend worship so you are reminded of the forgiveness won by Jesus; devote time to regular bible reading and most importantly, pray. God wants to hear from you and by building your relationship with Him, you will know all of the good that you have to offer.

Quick to Listen, Slow to Speak

During these times of uncertainty and frequent change, we need to get as many perspectives on an issue that we can. It’s easy to forget that our employees often have a very keen perspective of what’s happening in the organization that the leaders may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further up the ladder you go. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or statements that are made. Leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said. Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin say anything. These conversations are usually the time we simply justify why we are doing something or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer. If you want honest feedback and assessment of a situation from your employees, keep your emotions in check. The employees are giving you a gift, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance.

 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” James 1:19

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

“Right, Right”

One version of this verse reminded me of Radar O’Reilly from the TV show M.A.S.H. – “before they call, I will answer”. He always knew the answer before Colonel Blake could ask the question. However, it makes me think of people who interrupt others because they have the answer before someone even finishes asking the question. The phrase “right, right” seems to have infiltrated our society today. People don’t want to let you finish what you are saying and this phrase seems to give 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 didn’t get it. 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 is not a “mind reader”. Tell Him what you are thinking. God will meet our 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

Are you listening?

During these times of uncertainty and frequent change, we need to get as many perspectives on an issue that we can. Employees, our boots in the field, have a very keen perspective of what’s happening that we, as leaders may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further up the ladder you go. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or statements that are made. Listen to what is being said, not how it is being said. Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you speak. There are times we simply justify why we are doing something or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism, remember there can be more than one right answer. If you want honest feedback and assessment of a situation from your employees, keep your emotions in check. The employees are giving you a gift, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance.

James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of our savior Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life or think that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work; try it, you might be surprised.