The Listening Gift

There’s a popular talk show hostess that I like to watch. For the most part, I like her show. But she’s a terrible interviewer. The guests rarely get to finish a sentence before she  interrupts to make her commentary, clever comment, or to go off on her own related experience.

Another show—this one hosted by a well-respected news analyst—is even worse. Mainly, I agree with his opinions. But when he asks his guest a question, he or she rarely gets to finish with a well-thought out reply before the host begins to talk over the speaker. It leaves me muttering, “I tuned in to the show because I wanted to hear what the guest had to say. I already know what you (host’s name) think.”

I think we all tend to do what the talk show host and the news analyst do…from time to time. I’ve caught myself interrupting in conversations, too.

I try not to make it a habit. When I was little my mother frequently scolded me and my siblings with a “Don’t interrupt!”

The art of listening is becoming rare today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a conversation with someone who actually behaved as if what you had to say was interesting?

Wouldn’t it be great to to meet someone who was sincerely interested in you?

Most of us, I suspect, would gladly trade a few of our Christmas presents for a half hour conversation with someone where it was actually a conversation, a give and take, a “so what are you thinking about these days?” sort of dialogue.

Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas present to give to someone on your list?

Here’s how I would package my “gift,” using the word “ALTER” to remember my decision to listen well:

Ask a sincere question. (Not just “how are you?)

Listen (without injecting my own story.)

Train myself to stay focused. (Politely hold off any potential well-meaning interrupters)

Empathy (Mirror the speaker’s mood)

Related question. (Shows I am listening and comprehending the speaker.)

The best Christmas gift
The best Christmas gift

My time and my attention are a great gift to someone who needs a listening ear.

This Christmas I’ll be talking to skads of people. May the Lord help me to remember ALTER each time a friend starts to talk to me!

5 thoughts on “The Listening Gift”

  1. This ia a great! We have a saying in our business. God gave you two ears and one mouth. Use them proportionately.

  2. Thanks, Dena…such a good reminder! I’ll try to remember your words (of wisdom) when we get to have “our” time together tomorrow!   Love, Annie!

  3. When I taught Children’s Church and wanted the kids to pay attention, I’d cup my hands near my ears and say, “Do you have your listening ears on?” This always alerted them that something important was about to be said.

    Maybe we should do this with the adults in our lives.

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