Christmas 2022 is past, and so are its carols, unless you plan to observe the holiday with the Orthodox Church on January 7. The carol Do You Hear What I Hear? raises a marvellous question for us to reflect upon as we start 2023. To hear what you hear, I must give my attention to you. I must listen to your descriptions of what you hear and from where you hear it. If I listen to you, I can then hear what you hear, as long as I am wearing my Oticon hearing aids.
My wife looked out the window and saw a stack of flat boards in our son’s backyard. I thought she said, “What are those flat boards?” I went and stood next to her, to see what she saw. I told her they were sections of wooden fence. As I returned to my seat, I told her, “They are brown, not black.” She replied, “I said flat.” I hadn’t heard her correctly even with my hearing aids. Hearing and listening can be difficult.
Listening is an important relational and leadership skill for several reasons. Three of the reasons are: listening conveys a caring attitude; listening gives the speaker a sense of significance; and listening fosters connectivity. As you read above, my listening skill fluctuates between good and poor. Kirk McCarley’s blog “Quiet, Please” made me think about listening again. He contrasted two stats (he’s an ESPN statistician) about the ‘pause’ time in conversations in the US and in several Asian cultures. The average pause in US conversations is two seconds while Asian cultures average four times as much silence—eight seconds. In other words, silence makes us in the US uncomfortable AND conversational. But then, where is effective listening?
I have chosen one word to be my motivation each year. The word impacts my life throughout the year mentally, physically, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, and financially. My one word for 2023 is L.I.S.T.E.N. (see One Word That Will Change Your Life, by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton and Jimmy Page, 2013). I have turned the word into an acronym to give it more specificity for me. Listening consists of six elements: Look at the person, Inquire for clarity, Silence is key, Time-gifting, Engage both ears, and No interrupting.
You may notice that some the elements look contradictory. Inquire for clarity and Silence is key appear contrary. They are if I don’t Inquire for clarity at appropriate times in a conversation. This means that I use silence until stops or pauses open a door to seek clarity. Engage both ears is an elaboration of Silence is key. Engage both ears means I give my full attention to what the other person is saying.
No interrupting is a hard element in listening. I must be alert to the kind of relationship I have with the person I am conserving with. Familiarity in families and friendships breeds interruptions. Energetic discussions around dinner and coffee tables lead to interruptions as participants vie for the ‘floor’ or wish to disagree with another person’s opinion. If you are frustrated with constant interruptions, talk to the person or people in your sleep.
Listening is important for one’s spiritual life. “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and shame” (Proverbs 18:13). Shame does not enhance our spiritual lives. The verbs listen and hear are used hundreds of times in the Bible. They mean to pay attention to what God or a human speaker says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5). We engage both ears, but we’re also called to action which is evidence we have listened to and heard the message. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). Following is the evidence of hearing Jesus’ voice. James wrote, “Do not merely listen to the word…Do what it says” (James 1:22). Listening is not passive, but very active.
My one word for 2023 is L.I.S.T.E.N. Are you a ‘one word’ person? If so, what is your one word for 2023? Please share it with me. Whether you are a ‘one word’ person or not, I wish you a joyous New Year.
 Https://www.theseedsowercoach.com/quiet-please.html. December 8, 2022.