I serve as a coach to all sorts of people. Some of those I have coached are musicians, some are in the publishing business, one works for United Way, one is in the banking world, others work in an elementary school, still another is a computer guru. They all have one thing in common: the need to have someone listen to them.
I have to say, practicing curiosity and helping others be curious are among the greatest joys I have in what I do. A few months ago I had a coaching session with a guy and he remarked what a gift it is to just have someone to talk out ideas with—to be able to connect with someone who would listen simply to understand, not judge—to draw out, not “instruct”.
We all need good listeners in our life. Recently, it occurred to me: what a tragedy that we live in a world where whole professions have been created simply because someone needs someone else to listen—just listen, nothing more. And: what a tragedy that many of these professions require years and years of schooling simply to become a good listener. This tells us something about the value (and difficulty) of listening.
One of the greatest gifts you can give to those around you is to be a good listener. Even if you feel you know the answer to someone else’s problem, I invite you to resist the temptation to play the role of advice-giver. Yes, you may be an expert in a given field, you may have had a similar problem as someone else, but that does not mean the answers you provide will truly help the other. Answers discovered hold more power than answers “taught”.
Just look at Jesus. Who was a greater expert in the human condition than him? Yet look at how well he listened! Consider how many questions he asked...Jesus was a master conversationalist: he knew how to speak well because he knew how to listen well. May we follow his example. May we learn to love others by listening.
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