In Others’ Words: Listen

At times I am the worst of listeners.

There’s a Vogt family joke that somebody needs to make me a T-shirt with this statement printed across the back: If you can read this, then I can’t hear you.

My responsibility? To wear this one-of-a-kind T-shirt whenever I’m seated at my desk, writing.  Hhhhmmmm. I’m going to need more than one of these T-shirts.

At times, my family jokes about how I’ll look up from my computer and ask, “Were you talking to me?” But behind the laughter, there is often a hint of hurt … even frustration.

I let it happen again. Pulled by the demand of something else (usually writing), I didn’t listen to my husband. Or one of my daughters. Or my son. And not listening can equal not caring. Or at least caring about something else more than whoever was talking to me.

I tell my family that they are more important than my writing — but do I prove it to them? Not always. I love my kiddos all the time … but sometimes I let other things — like a deadline — interfere with a truth I want to tuck deep into their hearts: I love you. 

The one thing I’ve learned is that listening — really listening so that I hear what someone is saying — requires more than using my ears. I have to use my eyes too. I have to turn away from my desk or shut my laptop and make eye-to-eye contact with the person who is talking to me. It’s a deliberate action that shows them they’ve got my undivided attention because they are important to me.

In Your Words: What keeps your from listening to others? What helps you be a loving listener?

What keeps you from listening to others? Click to Tweet

What helps you be a loving listener? Click to Tweet 

Read the first chapter of Catch a Falling Star by Beth K. Vogt! Click to Tweet

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  1. June 17, 2013, 6:07 am   /  Reply

    Listening is the hardest part of communication. So often when someone else is speaking I’m thinking of what I’m going to say next, or my mind is on something else, like my writing or something I’m reading. I’ve found that to listen means I have to clear my mind of everything going on around me, maybe even turn off the computer, and look at that person, then repeat back at least a little of what they said. Great post!

    • June 17, 2013, 2:31 pm   /  Reply

      Repeating back what someone else has said — that’s a great way to motivate listening, Pat!

  2. June 17, 2013, 6:38 am   /  Reply

    Beth, you are a great listener. And a hard worker. Sometimes it simply takes a fraction of time to change gears. Those close in your world definitely feel loved.
    This week at farm w/ the 2 kidniks ages 7 & 9, I found their bouts of sibling squabbling irritating, especially when I was working hard on projects to improve place, often for them. I realized my unhappy reactions probably wouldn’t stop their problem & I didn’t want my reactions to color their time. So I prayed for 1) more patience, and 2) better strategy. We haven’t yet reached perfection, but things improved, many projects gone done, and buying 3 packs of balloons for outdoor water fights did wonders.

    • June 17, 2013, 2:35 pm   /  Reply

      You were listening, Dee, and you re-prioritized both your actions and reactions — adding a little fun along the way.

  3. June 17, 2013, 7:23 am   /  Reply

    My problem with listening is that after being a reporter and doing about a bazillion interviews, I got really good at nodding my head as if I was listening when really I was thinking about my next question or how I was going to write the article, etc. And yet, on the flip side of that, interviews taught me how to look for underlying emotions or the things people weren’t saying…

    But yes, my own busyness and desire to get stuff done can be one of my biggest challenges with listening. It takes effort, doesn’t it? And I’m not always good at being willing to make the effort. So thanks for the challenge today!

    • June 17, 2013, 7:23 pm   /  Reply

      I like your challenge too, Melissa — to listen for underlying emotions …

  4. June 17, 2013, 8:02 am   /  Reply

    Things that keep me from truly listening to others include the thoughts going around in my head based on what someone is saying to me. With my kids I catch myself going down a certain path when they say something that sets off a trigger within me. Usually a lecturing path. I’m working on this, but takes a lot of diligence and a willingness to step off that path and really listen to what’s behind their words.

    In other, I sometimes find myself listening with the intent of preparing what I’m going to respond with. I’m working to be better at fully engaging in what they’re saying before I give my response.

    I have found that eye contact (and with my children, getting down on their level) helps me to fully engage.

    • June 17, 2013, 7:32 pm   /  Reply

      Great insight, Jeanne: being willing to step of the mental path of how we want to respond — and being willing to listen to what someone is saying.

  5. Andrea Cox
    June 17, 2013, 8:22 am   /  Reply

    Beth, this post is so perfect. I’ve been making a point lately to listen as well.

    The NBA Finals are on, and I’m an NBA fanatic (yes, I admit it). This time of year is always hard for me to turn on my listening ears during game time. However, I’ve been making that deliberate choice lately.

    The same thing happens when I’m in the writing zone. My ears tend to shut off everything and I’m glancing around going, “What? Was that directed to me?” with this completely befuddled look on my face. Again, with the not listening! Well, I’ve been trying harder to have my ears “on” and catch it earlier when someone’s speaking to me, turning then to give them my attention.

    It’s difficult to change habits, and even harder when your brain’s one that’s one-track-minded to begin with. It’s hard to fight genetics. But I’m so glad I’m working on it. I want to be a good listener, and God’s helping me get there!


    • June 17, 2013, 7:33 pm   /  Reply

      Andrea: You and me — we get each other. Only for me, it’s football season. 😉

      • Andrea Cox
        June 19, 2013, 8:25 am   /  Reply

        I hear you, Beth. You’re a Tim Tebow fan, if I remember, yes? Did he switch teams this off-season? Which one is he on now?

        • June 19, 2013, 10:07 am   /  Reply

          The Patriots took him, Andrea … I can hardly type those words …

          • Andrea Cox
            June 20, 2013, 4:12 pm   / 

            I’m not up with all the intricacies of enemies in the NFL, but I totally get how devastating it is when your favorite player must leave your favorite team. The same thing happened with JJ Barea and the Dallas Mavs after they won the championship. I guess we really are two peas in a pod. 🙂

  6. June 17, 2013, 10:24 am   /  Reply

    I never equated love with listening before, but how very true! The times that I catch myself not listening is when I’m more focused on my wants/needs than theirs. And it happens more often than I care to admit. Ugh! I’m so thankful for God’s grace and His listening ears. In the being still, He allows me to see where I’ve fallen short. Again. And provides another opportunity to listen. Again. So very thankful for your words that necessarily remind me of the importance of tuning in instead of broadcasting.

    • June 17, 2013, 7:35 pm   /  Reply

      Donna — a favorite verse is the one that says God’s ears are open to our prayers (2 Chron. 7:15).

  7. June 17, 2013, 2:05 pm   /  Reply

    Great post, Beth! It reminded me of something that happened several years ago – ok, many years ago – with my two daughters. Jenyne came up to say something to me and Janice said, “She won’t hear you, she’s reading that book with the bear on the front,” (Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel). Ouch!

    I’d like to say that cured me of tuning others out, but I still do it. It’s the worst when I’m reading. I try to remind myself how irritated I get when someone does it to me.

  8. June 17, 2013, 7:36 pm   /  Reply

    That’s funny, Sherry — and so, so understandable! Yeah, me and reading — and writing — worst time for listening!

  9. Carol Edwards
    June 18, 2013, 9:12 am   /  Reply

    I have a hard time listening to people who don’t let you respond to anything they are saying and have a tendency to tune them out and then get caught when they actually say something that warrants a response.

  10. Michelle L.
    June 18, 2013, 11:05 am   /  Reply

    Listening. Sigh. I’m terrible at it. I have to make a conscious effort to tell myself not to talk and to actually “hear” what the other person is saying. That’s the only way I can get it done.

  11. June 18, 2013, 10:14 pm   /  Reply

    My problem with listening is when my husband or kids are sharing something that concerns them, I kick into fix-it mode and want to offer solutions. A friend told me to ask, “Do you want sympathy or solutions?” And then honor what they ask for. Mmmm, need to practice some more on this one.

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