We don’t do a very good job of listening. I work real hard to listen to my clients as they express their personal issues. Often, I miss what they’re saying and need some help. More often, they miss what each other is saying and need a lot of help. So if we don’t listen well, we don’t understand what’s really going on with the other person.
Some years ago, Wiley Miller wrote my favorite series on Non-Sequitur cartoons. The first panel showed what one person heard; the second showed what the other person heard. For example:
What She Heard – “Anything less than absolute perfection makes you an utter failure as a wife and mother.”
What He Said – “Mom is coming over for dinner.”
Or another . . .
What He Heard – “You’re way too stupid to be trusted driving in bad weather!”
What She Said – “Drive carefully, dear.”
Someone wisely said, “If we have two ears and one mouth, we ought to do twice as much listening as we do talking.” Certainly, one of the reasons we don’t hear so well is that we are too busy giving our answers. Proverbs 18:13 says,
“He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.”
So we ought to be working hard to make sure we listen intently so our responses are to the point. Ken Boa writes a wonderfully clear article about what the Bible ways about the importance of listening.
Just to illustrate the point more vividly and visually, take a look at Clement Valla’s artistic project. He asked 500 people to use an online drawing tool that lets users do just one thing – trace a line. Each new user only sees the latest line drawn, and can therefore only trace this latest imperfect copy. Watch the distortions that take place over the sequence of 500 attempts to trace a line!
It’s amazing to me that we’re able to communicate much of anything, given our poor skills. In the meantime, let’s be patient with one another, not expecting to be heard precisely right the first time. We need to work on clarity.