“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” – Dalai Lama

Listening to others is not an easy task especially when the subject does not really attract our interest. This may be a bit overly generalized, but listening tends to be more challenging for the people from the western culture than those from far eastern cultures. In the Far East people learn how to clearly and effectively express their feelings and opinions.

Of course effective communication is not easy, this skill does not develop overnight.

As a chaplain I engage many who have been frustrated or discouraged by the fact that their voice has not been heard or misinterpreted by their significant others.  I have noticed that miscommunication and/or lack of communication caused by incompetent listening turns out to be the seismic center for the relationship.

Communication not only delivers a message or idea to the listener, but builds up a relationship. When solely focused on forcing our thoughts and opinions on the listener, chances are that the relationship part is neglected. The more the relationship gets shaken up, the less we have opportunities for quality communication. The best way of improving our communication skills, I personally believe, is through developing our listening capability. Good listening creates a solid foundation for a relationship because everybody loves to be heard.  

Forbes magazine suggests 10 tips for good listening. This may give some of you some ideas about how to develop your listening skills.  

Step 1: Face the speaker and maintain eye contact.

Step 2: Be attentive, but relaxed.

Step 3: Keep an open mind.

Step 4: Listen to the words and try to picture what the speaker is saying.

Step 5: Don’t interrupt and don’t impose your “solutions.”

Step 6: Wait for the speaker to pause to ask clarifying questions.

Step 7: Ask questions only to ensure understanding.

Step 8: Try to feel what the speaker is feeling.

Step 9: Give the speaker regular feedback.

Step 10: Pay attention to what is not said – to nonverbal cues.

Listening is not a passive part of communication. As Dalai Lama points out, it mutually benefits both parties, speaker and listener. Authentic and empathetic listening brings healing and reconciliation. Oftentimes it brings new life to someone whose voice has been neglected and who, as a result, has suffered loneliness and felt shut-in.   

The Bible urges us to slow down talking and instead to open our ears wide to what others have to say. James 1:19-20 reads, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”

There is a saying, “The Great Wall was not built up overnight. It started with one stone at a time.” In this season of blossoming, I want us to listen closely how the creator changes nature with fragrance, flowers and green leaves. It is a new start. And I want us to start this new way of conversation with our loving Family, friends and colleagues by listening to their stories with compassion, patience and respect.