The Wisdom of Listening Well

Listening is an active labor, a learned skill, not a passive silence as though two were taking turns at the same game.

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“Listening is an active labor, a learned skill, not a passive silence as though two were taking turns at the same game. False listening is waiting for the other to finish; good listening is waiting on the other while he or she speaks, as good servants, with intense attention, wait on their employers. It is a busy service.”

From the book, As For Me and My House by Walter Wangerin, Jr., Thomas Nelson Publ., 1987, see p. 166

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2;3-4).

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise” (Proverbs 10:19).

I take up three or four maxims about listening well.  I owe a wheelbarrow of thanks to my colleague and friend, Pastor Al Tricarico. These are his lessons.  Here’s the first:


Accept feedback and penetrating questions graciously

At a recent talk, Al gave superb explanation; I expand slightly, “Some folks have as their learned practice an edge to their feedback to us; moreover, some have not learned how to raise a question or raise an issue without being critical.  Some have not learned how to speak about a burden without poor expressions, a poor choice of words, a difficult tone in the voice, or without being frazzled or flummoxed about approaching us with the matter with which they want to bring up.”

In turning wisdom’s ear to people around us, we must grow in our ability to listen graciously.

Give them room to fumble with words and tone. Give them room to learn to speak openly. Give them room to try again.

The key? Practice good eye contact, concerted efforts to truly listen, and inviting facial expressions—these help at making attempts to draw out their thoughts and concerns.

Back to the top, Wangerin says listening is active labor.