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  • Lynne Themelaras

Can You Hear Me Now?

Have you ever felt like what you have to say doesn't matter? When you're trying to explain yourself, it often seems to add to conflict rather than bringing resolution. It can be challenging to believe that your opinions or concerns hold importance when it appears that what you're saying isn't being valued. Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a quote that really made me reflect on how I converse with people: "We listen to respond, not to understand."

I don't know who originally penned those simple yet profound words, but they got me thinking. This phenomenon might be the reason we often feel that our opinions aren't valued. It doesn't matter what the topic is or what the other person is saying; what truly makes us feel valued is when someone genuinely listens. Wouldn't life be so much better if everyone were masterful communicators, capable of articulating their feelings with well-thought-out points that made perfect sense to everyone? Unfortunately, it doesn't always work that way.

Many times, people need to hear themselves as they process their thoughts. They may require a sounding board to help them navigate their concerns and gain a better perspective. However, we can easily misinterpret our role as a sounding board and unintentionally assume the role of a problem solver. We might find ourselves eagerly waiting to share our thoughts, opinions, or our perspective on the situation, even when they haven't explicitly asked for our help or input. This swift leap to assist can leave our friends feeling unheard, and in the process, we might miss the underlying emotions or the true purpose of the conversation. I genuinely believe that none of us intend to make others feel devalued; most likely, our intentions are good. I know mine were. But the outcome remains the same—hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

Not too long ago, I was reading through the book of James, and I came across the scripture that says, "Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." (James 1:19 NLT). It struck me that this was the scripture I needed to focus on that day. So, I jotted it down in my trusty journal and began to reflect on it. As I contemplated the scripture, these words came to mind: "I need to be quick to listen and slow to give my opinion."

As I started to think about how often I had an opinion and felt compelled to share it, I was truly taken aback. I realized that I could easily fall into the trap of "thinking too highly of myself," believing that my opinion was superior or more important than others'. It became a kind of "Jesus moment" for me and marked the beginning of truly hearing the hearts of those around me. I am learning to recognize my role in a conversation before assuming or deciding what role I want to play.

Here are a few things I've learned to become a better friend. I don't always get them right, but I strive to improve every chance I get:

  • Stop and make eye contact - That means putting down my phone or any other distractions.

  • Clear my mind and prepare myself to listen - It's about being mentally present and engaged.

  • Empathize with the situation - Letting them know that their feelings are important can make a significant difference.

  • Ask if I can help in any way - Allowing them to tell me what they want or need.

Sometimes my friends seek advice, while other times, they simply say thank you for listening. Regardless, it's a success as long as they feel heard.

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