"Are you the adult that you want your child to grow up to be?"
from the book by Brené Brown,
Most of us listen with just 25% efficiency. Chances are that even when we are not speaking or on our smart phones, we are thinking about what we will say, rather then being present and truly listening to what is being said to us. This week we will dive into some practical ways to practice how to listen, love and lead well.
Whether we are talking about raising our children; who we work or volunteer with; and/or anyone of in our sphere of influence; are we the person that we want them to intimidate? Or are we still hoping someone else is going to rise to the challenge and take on the work of making a positive difference?
Active listening and being present is a lot of work. By nature, we think of ourselves first. So putting anyone before ourselves takes mindful effort—but so is anything worth having. So how do we make this a reality when we already feel pulled in so many directions?
3 practical ways:
- Routine. I realize that many of your schedules have to be flexible. I know my own does. So, set up a schedule with several blocks of time that will be specifically for the to-dos that have to be done for you to function. If you know that you have scheduled them into your day, it helps remove the immediate burdon of not getting some things done as quickly as you like—leaving some mind space to listen. I know that if I don't start my day off with time alone for meditating on God's Word and silence, then I will not listen to anyone else well. So, whether I end up with 2 minutes or 20 minutes, that is always in my routine. Another one for me is an empty sink before I go to bed. I know that before I lock the doors and turn off the lights, the dishes are done. So, when someone needs me to tune in and engage before then, I really work at listening to what they are saying to me.
- Breathe. Some days it is just hard to not try to blaze through the day. Slow your breath down and your nervous system will help with the rest. Use these moments to remind yourself of your favorite mantras or scripture verses to re-shift your focus.
- Expectations. When we stress ourselves out, it is because we think we are not getting what we wanted. Sometimes our short term wants or goals really aren't that important. Think long term here. Goals and intentions are great. Expectations and perspectives have the power to derail us—don't cave to the want of the moment, live the moment. I know that sounds really silly, but give it a go, you'll understand what I mean.
Learning to listen well will make ours far richer then only focusing on ourselves. I think most of us want to listen, love and lead well. I also think we tend to give up when we allow ourselves the excuse that "we just aren't wired that way" or we are too busy today, maybe tomorrow...
I also know that somedays I fail at listening. I have went through the motions, but could not truthfully tell you how the people that matter most to me really are doing. Even if they tried to tell me! When those days are over, maybe I made it through a few more items on my to-do list, but I am far less content with how I spent my time. When this happens, it is always a reminder that my short term desires are not worth living my life for, but the people God allows me to get know and share life with are.
How about you? Do you have any other tips or practices that helps you listen well? I'd love to hear them if so.