How Well Do You Listen?

How well do you listen? I've come to realize that I practice selective listening. When I was a pastor, I was pretty good at listening when I visited people in the hospital or had a conversation about a pastoral need. As a coach to pastors, I've become quite good indeed.

But I don't listen well to those closest to me. I had a rude awakening last year when I attended a workshop where one of the homework assignments was to listen to someone at home for five minutes. I told my husband about the assignment, and asked if I could listen to him. Before we started, I confessed, "I don't listen to you very well."

"I know," he said. Moment of truth! For years I have "listened" to him while taking care of tasks around the house. It always seemed like a good time to unload the dishwasher or put away the laundry. In the seven or eight months since that conversation, I've been trying to actually listen when he talks to me, without doing anything else. It's been good for me, and good for our relationship.

In this age of multi-tasking, listening may be an endangered art. I'm not sure it's possible to listen to someone while you are checking e-mail. This year, I want to continue to try to improve my listening, especially to those I'm closest to.

A second way I don't always listen well: when I think more about how I'm going to refute what the other person is saying than about what they are actually saying. In a committee or board meeting, it's easy to think about why the other is wrong and how I'm going to convince them I'm right. This year, I also want to practice better listening in meetings. I want to spend more time listening and less time thinking my own thoughts.

What do you notice about your own listening?

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