Way Too Much Coffee Talk*
Renee Bourdeaux, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor of Communication,
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. (Proverbs 19:20)
After studying the listening of thousands of students and of hundreds of professionals, researchers came up with one general conclusion—immediately after listening to someone talk, the listener only remembers half of what was heard, even when the person believes he was listening closely.
If a listener only hears half, then we need to rethink not only listening, but how much we are talking, too.
Once we find a person to be our friend, we enjoy sharing: who we are, what we like and dislike, and what is important to us.
In a good relationship, there’s reciprocity, or turn-taking. In addition to talking, we take time to listen while our friend speaks. Personally, I could spend hours with a friend over coffee as we take turns sharing.
But sometimes I talk too much and listen very little. I get distracted by things like my favorite programs, social media, or even other people. I might not listen well because of things such as emotions, being tired, or preparing a story in my head instead of listening. And sometimes I might talk so much that I don’t give the other person a chance to talk at all.
We all need to become better listeners. Listening shows others that we respect them, and we want to hear what they have to say. Others—most importantly God—want us to take time to listen and hear their heart. It is this kind of listening that creates and sustains relationships. How amazing is it to think God wants to sit down and talk with us?!
As Proverbs 19:20 reminds us, when you actually listen, you gain wisdom that you can use into the future. The easiest way to ensure that you are gaining wisdom for your future and your future relationships is to listen in all of your interactions. In your day-to-day relationships, you could listen more by talking less, practice good eye contact, and lean toward the person who is talking. With your heavenly Father, you could practice being quiet and listening during your prayer time.
If we truly only hear half of what others tell us, then we need to do better. As a talker, be more concise. As a listener, be even more focused on listening.
Reflection: Which of your habits make you a great listener? Which make listening challenging for you? What is one way you might improve your listening?
Today’s Challenge: During your prayer time, take a purposeful pause several times to listen to what God is telling you. When you are done praying, spend time in quiet contemplation listening for the Lord’s guidance.
* This devotional is included in a book of 365 devotionals on Christianity and Communication Studies, forthcoming, from Integratio Press. All Rights Reserved.