As a seasoned clinical psychotherapist, I am blessed with a wonderful opportunity to listen to people share their joy, sorrow, pain and happiness. Over the past two years alone, I have had 1,980 client encounters and have spent over 300 hours listening to family and friends bear their hearts and souls. Within the past fifteen years, I have listened to over 20,000 people from various parts of the world.
On a regular basis I am asked, “Why do you believe that you are blessed because you listen to others complain about their relationships, personal issues and life challenges?” After many years of engaging in self-reflection and prayer, I have come to realize that I am blessed because God has bestowed upon me one of the most rewarding, but challenging gifts known to mankind—the divine gift of listening. In my personal opinion, I believe that time spent listening to others is time well spent. Through active listening, I assist God in blessing others by promoting and contributing to their happiness, well-being and prosperity. In sum, I am blessed because I am using my divine gift of listening to advance His kingdom. Listening is not only a personal blessing, but it is an essential communication skill that has many benefits. From my professional assessment, I have found that listening provides the following five benefits:
- Listening Promotes On-going Communication. Listening opens up the door for on-going dialogue. Throughout the years, I have learned that individuals are more likely to engage in on-going dialogue if they feel that they will be afforded equal opportunity to be heard and understood. I have also learned that the quickest way to end a conversation is to talk more than I listen.
- Listening Promotes Acceptance. Individuals feel loved and accepted when others listen to them. Listening demonstrates genuine concern and interest. In the midst of life challenges, everyone needs someone who will listen to them. Feeling accepted is a by-product of being listened to and understood, not chastised or judged.
- Listening Promotes Obedience. According to the book of James 1:19-20, we are instructed to be quick to listen with our two ears and slow to speak with our one mouth. God instructs us to listen to others so that we can carefully assess their need and direct them in the right direction for help. God listens to us and instructs us to do the same so that we can be hearing aids for others. There is nothing more comforting to a person in distress than a person with a listening and nurturing heart.
- Listening Promotes Harmony. Listening to others sets the platform for developing mutual respect, trust and understanding, which are essential ingredients for creating harmonious relationships. Also, listening enables both individuals to be heard, thus contributing to increased opportunities for successful conflict resolution.
- Listening Promotes Personal Growth. Prior to understanding and embracing the power of listening, I was a selfish individual who expected to be heard, respected and understood, but put forth very little effort to hear, respect and understand others. Like most individuals, I often put my needs before the needs of others. However, through active listening, I have developed the ability to hear and relate to others. This in return has led me to become a more compassionate individual. And as a result of listening to thousands of people, I have grown in ways that I would have never imaged. I now know how to hear different viewpoints and I have found balance in speaking my mind and listening with my heart.
Listening is a fundamental part of my life and should be a part of yours as well. Remember that healthy relationships are developed and sustained based on individuals’ ability to hear others. I highly recommend that you listen to others with a desire to understand them and not criticize them. Listen more and talk less and see how your relationships change for the better. Listening breaths life into people and relationships.