February 14, 2015
by Maria Fontaine
A while back I posted an article about one of the greatest gifts you can give to anyone—the gift of listening—and why this gift is so valuable to the one being listened to. In this article I want to present another aspect of listening’s benefits: what it does for you, the listener.
The Bible says, “Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”1
The value of listening in your own life becomes apparent as you practice and hone your skills in this area. What you sacrifice of time, attention, and genuine concern as you listen to others really does come back to you in many wonderful ways. Along with some points from Jesus, the master communicator, I’m going to share some thoughts from experts in this field.
When I speak of listening to others, I’m talking about listening to their heart cries, their lessons and experiences in order to support and comfort them. The benefits you gain are the result of this caring and loving approach to understanding the hearts of those who are searching for more. Of course, listening doesn’t necessarily mean that you are accepting or agreeing with all that you hear. It takes discernment and a connection with Jesus’ Spirit to benefit from both the good and the bad; to draw wisdom and experience by learning from those things that are positive and recognizing the risks and dangers of taking into your heart and mind things that are negative or ungodly. Listening to others in this way is a wise investment. It provides rich experiences that help to shape the complete person that Jesus wants us to be and plays a part in helping us develop our full potential.
Jesus, in prophecy: In the art of discovering the intricate complexities of the heart and soul of another person, your professor is God. Your classroom is this life. Those around you serve as some of your main textbooks, and your final thesis is the sum total of what you learn about others, about yourself, and ultimately, about your Creator.
People are living books. Within the covers of their lives you’ll find a unique collection of experiences, relationships, choices—and their resultant blessings and consequences—and the touch of the Almighty that gives them both their individuality and their commonality with you. When you stop to really listen to another, desiring to understand, you are taking a walk with Me through their heart. Each life holds a treasure trove of wealth, but those priceless jewels are not always apparent on the surface. They may be like the pages of a book, filled with words, whose value is only revealed when you take the time to study them and absorb the wisdom and truth that is hidden within.
With a person, that interaction begins with listening. You draw from their experience. You share a bit of their dreams, hopes, joys, sorrows, and losses, and those enhance your own experiences and help you see this life from other perspectives that you alone couldn’t have had. When your life choices and decisions draw from both your own experiences and those of others, along with your relationship with Me, it helps you develop wisdom.
It’s an honor to listen to another person, because you are being handed the wealth of another life to enhance your own. And when that listening opens the way for you to help someone, it strengthens your own sense of purpose and provides you with a deeper understanding of yourself and Me.
Jesus: You may not discover how the pieces of what you learn through listening fit together immediately, just as you don't always discover a book's plot when you start reading it. You might have to finish the chapter or reach the end of the book before the fuller understanding of what you’ve gained becomes clear. But each word, each page, each life you delve into by listening to them and empathizing with them, contributes to the book of your own life, enriching it and developing it.
Here are some quotes from various business leaders, educators, authors, speakers, and others on the benefits of being a good listener.
I would say that listening to the other person’s emotions may be the most important thing I’ve learned in twenty years of business.—Heath Herber
Of all the skills of leadership, listening is the most valuable, and one of the least understood. Most captains of industry listen only sometimes, and they remain ordinary leaders. But a few, the great ones, never stop listening. That’s how they get word before anyone else of unseen problems and opportunities.—Peter Nulty
Without credible communication, and a lot of it, the hearts and minds of others are never captured.—John P. Kotter
I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.—Larry King
Listening benefits the listener as well [as the one being listened to]. It helps build trust, avoid misunderstanding, and above all it’s a true gift which you can share to uplift people.—Dhara Jani
The true listener is much more beloved, magnetic than the talker, and he is more effective and learns more and does more good.—Brenda Ueland
In real ways, we are invited each day to slow down and listen. But why listen at all? Because listening stitches the world together. Because listening is the doorway to everything that matters. It enlivens the heart the way breathing enlivens the lungs. We listen to awaken our heart. We do this to stay vital and alive. This is the work of reverence: to stay vital and alive by listening deeply.—Mark Nepo
A good listener is not only popular everywhere, but after a while he knows something.—Wilson Mizner
What’s the payoff? Listening keeps you informed, up to date, and out of trouble. It increases your impact when you do speak. It gives you a negotiating edge, power, and influence. It makes other people love you. Listening is a gift to yourself and to other people.—Dianna Booher
There is no such thing as a worthless conversation, provided you know what to listen for.—James Nathan Miller
To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept. Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings. The beauty of listening is that those who are listened to start feeling accepted, start taking our words more seriously and discovering their true selves. Listening is a form of spiritual hospitality by which you invite strangers to become friends.—Henri Nouwen
Take the time to really listen today, and see how it changes other people’s lives—and yours.—Dhara Jani
Listening means the difference between passing or failing a test, making or losing a sale, getting or losing a job, motivating or discouraging a team, mending or destroying a relationship.—Dianna Booher
When you listen, it’s amazing what you can learn. When you act on what you’ve learned, it’s amazing what you can change.—Audrey McLaughlin
Listening has the quality of the wizard’s alchemy. It has the power to melt armor and to produce beauty in the midst of hatred.—Brian Muldoon
The benefits of listening are interdependent and synergistic—the more you reap one benefit of good listening, the more listening you will do, and the more the other benefits will start to pile up.—Chloe Sekouri
Just being available and attentive is a great way to use listening as a management tool. Some employees will come in, talk for twenty minutes, and leave having solved their problems entirely by themselves.—Nicholas V. Luppa
Listen with your heart. Practice empathy when you listen. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Listen for growth. Be an inquisitive listener. Ask questions. Everyone has something to say which will help you to grow.
Listen creatively. Listen for ideas or the germs of ideas. Listen for hints or clues that may spark creative projects.
Listen to yourself. Listen to your deepest yearnings, your highest aspirations, your noblest impulses. Listen to the better person within you.
Listen with depth. Be still and listen. Listen with the ear of intuition to the inspiration of the Infinite.—Wilferd A. Peterson
Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.—Catherine M. Wallace
Of all the tools available to us in dealing with conflict, none is more important than attentive, intentional listening. Listening helps reduce resistance and opens our thinking to creative solutions. Listening not only clarifies the message but changes both the messenger and the listener. Listening makes it possible for both sides to have a change of heart.—Brian Muldoon
If we do not care enough about a person to really listen, they will likely pick up on this. This too will have a dampening effect on our relationship with them and our future interactions. … Everything begins with careful listening.—Norman Geisler
Listening to the person right in front of you helps you to discover how to effectively serve that person.—Mary Jo Sharp
The voice any person likes to hear best is his own. Everyone likes to talk, but some do more than others. Many people would give anything to find someone who would just listen to them. When we listen long enough, we not only begin to know and understand an individual; we also gain his gratitude and his willingness to listen to us, enabling us later to speak relevantly to him.—Paul E. Little
Listening is like a stethoscope to the human heart. We can find out what is happening inside the heart of a person by simply listening to them—an invaluable tool when sharing Christ. The Bible emphasizes the importance of listening. James instructs believers to be “quick to listen and slow to speak” (James 1:19).—James M. Rochford
Jesus, in prophecy: A book can sit on your bookshelf for your entire life, but until you get it down and delve into its depths, seeking out the jewels of knowledge and poring over it until you grasp its secrets, that book serves no purpose and offers you nothing. People are the same. You can live around them, gaze at their “cover” and “binding,” their gilded edges—or their ragged and stained ones—and try to judge what you think is contained within their pages. You can even “flip through their pages,” observing the “print clarity” or the “quality of paper” they’re made from. You can even skim over their “table of contents,” like getting to know them socially, but you’ll never fully realize what their true value is until you invest the time to search out what treasures are hidden deep within by listening.
Listening is a win–win investment. Others profit from your loving concern. You profit through the experiences of listening to others, and if you’re a follower of Jesus, God gains a wiser, more effective representative of His kingdom. Whether we’re rich or poor, bold or timid, busy or with time to spare, listening is one thing we can always find a little time for if we recognize its value and importance.
1 Luke 6:38 HCSB.