I love Ted Talks—they are a quick motivational/thought-provoking mini-break during my day. Earlier this week, I stumbled upon one by Celeste Headlee, a daily news/talk show host who discusses “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation.”
Her points were:
- Don’t multi-task—be present, in your mind, as well as your hands. (No texting while listening!)
- Don’t pontificate—enter every conversation ready to learn from the other person!
- Use open-ended questions—Who? What? When? Where? How?
- Go with the flow—let your thoughts go out of your mind. (This one reminded me of #1. Be present.)
- If you don’t know, say you don’t know.
- Don’t equate your experience with theirs—don’t try to make it about you.
- Try not to repeat yourself.
- Don’t worry about the details of names/dates/places—focus on the message.
- LISTEN. It takes effort and energy to fully listen. Expend the effort.
- Be brief—share enough to be enticing without over-sharing.
Interesting, right? So what does this have to do with my goal: To live as the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:27-37) for one year? A LOT.
If you read the list carefully, you’ll notice that #1, #4, and #9 all have to do with listening, with quieting the thoughts in our own heads long enough to share space with the thoughts of someone else. This lesson of listening—being fully present for someone has been repeated again and again and again as I have continued this journey along Jericho’s road.
People want to be heard. They want to feel that they matter. Look at social media—everyone is tracking how many ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’, ‘Tweets’, and followers they have. Not because it really matters—Facebook could crash tomorrow and while inconvenient, we would probably survive. But social media shows that we want to feel heard. We want our experiences validated, our hurts comforted, and our victories celebrated.
We are more interconnected than ever, yet we are more disconnected. How often do you see people sitting on their porches and chatting with neighbors as they walk by? How often do you see neighborhood pick-up games for the kids? Not a lot, which means that we NEED to listen to those around us even more. We need to expend the effort to be present and to fully engage with someone else.
This last couple of weeks, my house has been topsy-turvy with home repair projects. Nothing is where it belongs, as everything is spread over counters and floors and there is perpetual drywall and wood dust on everything.
After several days, as one of the contractors was working, he and I got to chatting. I happened to be waiting between hauling my kids from one location to another—so I had about half an hour to visit. As he worked and we chatted, I learned, again, that people are incredible. This man who had quietly kept to himself and just came in and steadily worked on my home was just amazing!
He shared his experiences of being a pastor and the difficulties with counseling families when your own is struggling—how to put yourself to the side to minister to someone else. He shared what it was like to lose a wife to suicide and the despair and blame that followed. He shared the struggles of making a living and wanting to see his grand kids, but being unable to because of the expense. As he worked and we talked, I was amazed at his resiliency—his determination to move himself forward, no matter what had been thrown in his way.
As I got ready to leave, he said, “You didn’t have to listen to me, I’m just the hired labor.”
When did we move to Downton Abby? We’re Americans! There’s no class system here! I wanted to listen because his life was inspiring and interesting. When I told him so, he looked disbelieving.
When I saw him the next morning, he was grinning ear to ear. The change in his countenance was amazing. From quiet and withdrawn to cheerful and singing quietly to his radio!
As he explained what he had worked on at the end of the day, I asked him about a basement leak we’d been dealing with since buying the house. After his long day of work, he stayed and took over an hour talking me through exactly what was wrong and how we could fix it ourselves. He was expansive and patient as he explained exactly what materials we would need and even shared several tips learned from 20+ years of contracting work on how to approach the project.
The small sacrifice I made by listening to this kind man for half an hour was amply repaid with his sharing his knowledge and expertise. It was also repaid with having a cheerful smile brought into my home as he worked. It did not need to be repaid, and yet it was over and over.
That’s how the Lord works, He wants to bless us, even to overflowing, but we need to extend ourselves and make an effort. Listening costs nothing but time and effort, but what a tremendous gift to give someone—the gift of feeling noticed, valued, and of worth. It is a gift that will repay itself over and over again each time you give a listening ear.
About Emlee Taylor
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.