Read: Proverbs 18:13 & 15
Answering before listening is both stupid and rude…Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. (The Message)
“Lock it up!” My younger daughter, Danielle, and I use that expression, borrowed from a really stupid movie, to humorously remind each other that the point has arrived in the conversation when it would be best if one or the other of us would just simply quit speaking. So one of us will say, “lock it up!” To which the other will reply, “No, you lock it up!” It’s juvenile, I know, but we get a good laugh out of it.
I once hired a friend to run a ministry department at a very large church where I served in a senior leadership role who desperately needed to “lock it up!” She was extremely likeable, caring and qualified, but it turns out there was a very big issue: She had a listening problem. Worse still, she was in the habit, especially when under pressure or feeling her decisions were being challenged, of giving answers when she should have been listening.
I will never forget the recurring experience of sitting for our weekly planning meetings and literally watching her thinking of what to say next while I was still speaking. Not that thinking of an answer is a bad thing—it’s not! It’s just that I could see her tuning me out in order to defend herself, preserve her current practices, provide reasons why my directives would never work, or make excuses for her department’s under-performance.
Honestly, on those many occasions, when she went into that mode, I might as well have been a potted plant sitting there in my office. The only thing that finally got her attention were the words, to quote Donald Trump, “you’re fired.” Of course, I didn’t do it quite that inartfully. That was too bad, since she really was a delightful and skilled worker in so many ways. She just lacked the one skill that could have kept her employed and even thriving in her leadership role: Listening before speaking.
I hope that is a skill you and I can practice not only today, but habitually throughout our lives. Unless there are some other compelling factors at work, listening, absorbing, synthesizing, responding and implementing will get you to the top and keep you there in every arena of your life—at work and school, in marriage and parenting, among your friends and peers, in the work you do for the Lord. Listening before answering is that critically important to your level of happiness and achievement in life.
Whether you like it or not, you have no options to experience satisfaction, significance and success apart from working and playing well with people. First and foremost, God made us a relational people, and the greatest single factor in nurturing that terminal condition is listening. Have you ever stopped to consider the fact that, at least on the eternal level, the Creator gave us two of everything—ears, eyes, hands, feet, nostrils (not exactly sure why we need two of those instead of just one, except it sure makes us look a lot better)—but just one mouth. Unless you can come up with another reason better than this one, I would suggest that the two to one ratio is for this reason:
God gave us two ears and only one mouth
so we can listen twice as much as we speak!
Think about it!
Your Assignment, Should You Choose To Accept It:
This will be a very difficult assignment to complete today, since we continually violate this practice so subconsciously—but try listening instead of speaking at a two-to-one ratio. Try it, and watch what happens.