In Others’ Words: Do You Hear What I Hear?

listen quote by Hemingway 9.6.13 I wouldn’t say I never listen.

But there have been times when I haven’t listened. Sometimes it was a case of tuning someone out — yes, deliberately — because I didn’t want to hear what was being said. Sometimes it was exhaustion, pure and simple. And sometimes I didn’t realize my attention had wandered until something — a question maybe, or a long pause — pulled me back into the conversation.


The older I get, the more I value listening. Yes, being listened to — but even more, I want to hear what people are saying. I want to be present. I don’t want to be a long-winded, one-sided conversation.

For me, listening completely means I turn my back to my computer. Or I silence my iPhone or TV. Or I stop talking — plain and simple.

In Your Words: How do you ensure that you listen completely?

“Most People Never Listen.” Excuse me, what did you say? Click to Tweet

Are you listening completely? Click to Tweet 



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  1. September 6, 2013, 4:50 am   /  Reply

    I believe real listening depends on caring about the person and what is being said. I do care and have a good memory, but resort to brief notes if the details demand it for prayer, etc.

    • September 6, 2013, 9:56 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve always appreciated your attention to detail, Dee.

  2. Susan Tuttle
    September 6, 2013, 6:27 am   /  Reply

    Two thing stop me from listening…my mouth (this is a big one) and writing. Can’t tell you how many times my kids have tried talking to me when I’m writing and I don’t hear them. We’ve worked out a system that if I have my headphones in, not to interrupt unless there’s blood. Otherwise, it’s okay to tap my shoulder. Then I stop what I’m doing and focus on them:)

    • September 6, 2013, 9:57 pm   /  Reply

      We joke in my family — well, I’m serious — that I need a T-shirt with these words on the back: If you can read this, then I can’t hear you.


  3. September 6, 2013, 7:48 am   /  Reply

    I wouldn’t say I’m a good listener. Just ask Jeanne Takenaka!!

    “Blah blah blah, me me me me, blah blah blah…Jeanne, are you there? Okay, good. Blah blah me blah me….”

    I have an earned Ph.D in being in love with my own voice. Make that 2 Ph.D’s and a crown.

    But if I need to totally listen and learn from what the person is saying, I go somewhere quiet and lock the door. Otherwise I get distracted…
    Huh, a blue car just drove by…

    • September 6, 2013, 9:57 pm   /  Reply

      Girl, you crack me up.

  4. September 6, 2013, 8:47 am   /  Reply

    I remember the days when I was a great listener. At least, I think I was… But now, with my mind on so many things, I’m not sure that I am. It’s interesting that even in Ernest Hemingway’s time our society had a problem with listening. I’ve always blamed it on the fast-moving world of today. Looks like that’s not accurate.

    And to actually answer your question 🙂 I think it helps to listen if you focus on the facial expressions of the person who is speaking.

    • September 6, 2013, 9:58 pm   /  Reply

      Focus, focus, focus. Absolutely key. If I’m not looking at you, I’m probably not totally listening.

  5. Andrea Cox
    September 6, 2013, 8:59 am   /  Reply

    Eye contact.

    It’s so easy for me to get distracted when I’m trying to do two things at once. So, if one of my tutoring students is telling me a story about their day, I pause in working out a math problem and make eye contact with them. This not only helps me listen better, but it also signals to them that they are important, effectively boosting their sense of self worth and confidence.

    Simply making eye contact when someone is talking to you seems like a very small thing. But I’ve seen God work wonders of great magnitude when I stopped to do just that.


    • Roxanne Sherwood Gray
      September 6, 2013, 9:05 am   /  Reply

      Yes, Andrea, eye contact is essential! I spent hours working with my youngest to make eye contact. He chatters away about the same subject over and over, so I often tune him out. How revealing that sometimes he tells me to look at him. I need to be present during every conversation.

      Beth, Thanks for this thoughtful post!

      • September 6, 2013, 10:00 pm   /  Reply

        Love this, Roxanne. And I love how our kids will let us know exactly what they need.

      • Andrea Cox
        September 9, 2013, 8:17 pm   /  Reply

        Glad you’re getting that one-on-one time with your son, Roxanne. It’s such a treasure!

    • September 6, 2013, 9:59 pm   /  Reply

      Eye contact is crucial, Andrea — you are so right.

  6. September 6, 2013, 9:36 am   /  Reply

    I hate to admit it, but just yesterday I was “listening” to someone and for a second, I zoned out. Such an awkward pause as the other person stopped and waited for a comment from me…which reminds me that I’m not supposed to load my so full that I become exhausted. I suppose being older does give me the opportunity to say, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t quite catch that last thing you said.” 🙂

    Great post, one I will chew on.

    • September 6, 2013, 10:00 pm   /  Reply

      I’ve been caught too … and had to apologize. I really do want to be present in my relationships. I do.

  7. September 6, 2013, 10:02 pm   /  Reply

    Listening is such an important skill and a special gift. I’d like to say I do it most of the time, but my mind wanders and then there’s my undiagnosed ADD. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. 🙂 Seriously, I want to be heard and I’m sure others do too. I’m practicing tuning in more often.

  8. September 6, 2013, 11:27 pm   /  Reply

    There was an owl who lived in an oak.
    The more he heard, the less he spoke.
    The less he spoke, the more he heard.
    Wouldn’t you like to be wise as that bird?

    I tend to look like I’m not listening in a public setting because I’m usually ‘scanning’; checking likely threat axes, watching rooflines, watching cars, watching pedestrians. I check windows for reflections.

    You’d hate to talk to me. Barbara says that my eyes are constantly moving, focused at infinity, and very cold.

    But I am listening. You’d be surprised. I learned a long time ago that I don’t have much to say, but a lot to learn.

    Like the owl.

    • May 16, 2014, 12:26 pm   /  Reply

      Andrew, I used to know someone who never looked away when they talked to me … made me a bit uncomfortable. I try to find a balance … give eye contact, glance away a bit! Ha! I never thought of it until that person’s stare. That was just their way.

  9. Loree Huebner
    September 8, 2013, 6:00 pm   /  Reply

    Love this post, Beth. Listening, with full attention is so important. I work in a job where I talk one on one with customers/clients all day long. Sometimes they want to talk about other issues, or personal problems. I’m a good listener. Really, I’m a stranger to them, but they pour their hearts out anyway. What I’ve found is that sometimes people just need a good ear when nobody at home is listening. I may not be able to solve all of their problems, but they need to be heard. The least I can do is be there…listening.

  10. May 16, 2014, 12:31 pm   /  Reply

    We really have to be intentional to listen. When we have so many loose ends swinging around in our mind, it’s difficult. Yesterday, I teased my daughter. She said, “Mom, I hurt my finger.” I said, “Oh, that’s great, sweetie!” I turned and giggled … but I know at times I can be so absent … in my teasing, she probably thought I wasn’t really listening. Until she saw me giggling. I’ve been guilty of that lately … so it’s been on my mind to listen more, talk less, and talk/think less in my mind when someone is talking to me.

    I really love your posts, Beth. Short, sweet, and get me thinking. It’s more of that talk less, and listen.

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