Are You Listening to Understand Or To Reply?

I know a couple of women who will finish my sentences for me - with the beginning of their own sentence. It often makes me wonder if they actually heard a word I said or if they were already thinking of a story of their own.

And unfortunately, I sometime do it myself.

What we need to do, often on a moment-by-moment basis, is think about whether we're listening to understand or listening to reply.

It's fine to reply to someone. That's what having a conversation is all about - give and take, listen and respond. If you don't, it's a pretty boring conversation.

But if that's all you're doing, just thinking about what you'll say next, you're really missing out.

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels. Proverbs 1:5

And how can you learn anything if you're not really listening? If we're listening to understand, we have to put forth a conscious effort. It's an effort to put someone else's thoughts and feelings before your own. You may have something really great to say, but does it really trump what's already being said?

What if your patiently listening to someone else is a life-changing experience? For just a few minutes, you can give someone your undivided attention, and that includes interjecting your own thoughts. How rare that is in today's society. You could be the sounding board that helps someone analyze a problem, find a solution or just vent without having you take over the conversation.

It can also be a life-changing experience for you. Imagine getting outside of your own head for a little while. If your brain is like mine, it's good to shut down and listen to someone else without jumping ahead to your own story or your own comeback. There are so many more viewpoints out there than mine, but I'll never hear them if I'm busy thinking ahead about myself.

So ask yourself today: Are you listening to understand or listening to reply?

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