When God Talks, Its Time to Listen

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Featured Perspectives Sins against the Sixth Commandment at the root of clericalism.

1. Listen to God’s voice in the Scriptures

In Depth. What do we know about angels? Key figure unpacks Amazonian synod Brian Fraga September 23, Heinlein September 13, Opening the Word: Salvific gratitude Timothy P. O'Malley October 7, Sins against the Sixth Commandment at the root of clericalism Dr. Greg Popcak October 3, Should we interpret everything in the Bible literally? Charles Pope October 1, We are never going to avoid criticism Twice in this passage Jesus talks to his disciples about the suffering he is going to experience — explaining to them about the cross and resurrection ; — However, rather than listening to Jesus, Peter argues with him In every key decision we take, we must ask ourselves whether we have in mind the concerns of God or human concerns v.

What Jesus is saying to Peter is the heart of his mission and it has huge implications for all of his followers vv. We are not to seek a life of comfort and security. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself?

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What could you ever trade your soul for? Following Jesus involves denying yourself, taking up your cross and following him v. This is the way to find life in all its fullness. Wealth, in one sense, is utterly pointless.


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Purpose in life is far more important than property or possessions. All the money in the world, all the success in the world, all the fame in the world, all the power in the world is nothing if you lose your soul v. On the other hand, if you follow Jesus and surrender your life to him, you find the very purpose of life. The words of Jesus are so powerful.

Jesus took Peter, James and John up a high mountain. His clothes were filled with light. The use, or misuse, of this spare thinking time holds the answer to how well a person can concentrate on the spoken word. Case of the disenchanted listener. In our studies at the University of Minnesota, we find most people do not use their spare thinking time wisely as they listen. Let us illustrate how this happens by describing a familiar experience:.

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A, the boss, is talking to B, the subordinate, about a new program that the firm is planning to launch. B is a poor listener. In this instance, he tries to listen well, but he has difficulty concentrating on what A has to say. A starts talking and B launches into the listening process, grasping every word and phrase that comes into his ears. Subconsciously, B decides to sandwich a few thoughts of his own into the aural ones that are arriving so slowly.

There is plenty of time for B to do just what he has done, dash away from what he hears and then return quickly, and he continues taking sidetracks to his own private thoughts. Indeed, he can hardly avoid doing this because over the years the process has become a strong aural habit of his. But, sooner or later, on one of the mental sidetracks, B is almost sure to stay away too long.

When he returns, A is moving along ahead of him. At this point it becomes harder for B to understand A, simply because B has missed part of the oral message. The private mental sidetracks become more inviting than ever, and B slides off onto several of them. Slowly he misses more and more of what A has to say. When A is through talking, it is safe to say that B will have received and understood less than half of what was spoken to him.

A major task in helping people to listen better is teaching them to use their spare thinking time efficiently as they listen.

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We found that good listeners regularly engage in four mental activities, each geared to the oral discourse and taking place concurrently with that oral discourse. All four of these mental activities are neatly coordinated when listening works at its best.

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Here are the four processes:. He pays attention to nonverbal communication facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice to see if it adds meaning to the spoken words. Why is he doing so? The speed at which we think compared to that at which people talk allows plenty of time to accomplish these four mental tasks when we listen; however, they do require practice before they can become part of the mental agility that makes for good listening.

In our training courses we have devised aural exercises designed to give people this practice and thereby build up good habits of aural concentration. Another factor that affects listening ability concerns the reconstruction of orally communicated thoughts once they have been received by the listener. To illustrate:. The newspapers reported not too long ago that a church was torn down in Europe and shipped stone by stone to America, where it was reassembled in its original form. The moving of the church is analogous to what happens when a person speaks and is understood by a listener.

The talker has a thought. To transmit his thought, he takes it apart by putting it into words. The words, sent through the air to the listener, must then be mentally reassembled into the original thought if they are to be thoroughly understood. But most people do not know what to listen for, and so cannot reconstruct the thought.

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It seems logical enough to do so. If a person gets all the facts, he should certainly understand what is said to him. Therefore, many people try to memorize every single fact that is spoken. Memorizing facts is, to begin with, a virtual impossibility for most people in the listening situation.

As one fact is being memorized, the whole, or part, of the next fact is almost certain to be missed. When he is doing his very best, the listener is likely to catch only a few facts, garble many others, and completely miss the remainder. Even in the case of people who can aurally assimilate all the facts that they hear, one at a time as they hear them, listening is still likely to be at a low level; they are concerned with the pieces of what they hear and tend to miss the broad areas of the spoken communication.

When people talk, they want listeners to understand their ideas. The facts are useful chiefly for constructing the ideas. Grasping ideas, we have found, is the skill on which the good listener concentrates. He remembers facts only long enough to understand the ideas that are built from them. But then, almost miraculously, grasping an idea will help the listener to remember the supporting facts more effectively than does the person who goes after facts alone.

This listening skill is one which definitely can be taught, one in which people can build experience leading toward improved aural communication. In different degrees and in many different ways, listening ability is affected by our emotions. Or, on the other hand, when someone says what we especially want to hear, we open our ears wide, accepting everything—truths, half-truths, or fiction. We might say, then, that our emotions act as aural filters. At times they in effect cause deafness, and at other times they make listening altogether too easy.

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If we hear something that opposes our most deeply rooted prejudices, notions, convictions, mores, or complexes, our brains may become over-stimulated, and not in a direction that leads to good listening. We mentally plan a rebuttal to what we hear, formulate a question designed to embarrass the talker, or perhaps simply turn to thoughts that support our own feelings on the subject at hand. The fuming general manager may hear this—if the accountant presses hard enough—but the chances are he will fail to comprehend it.


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When emotions make listening too easy, it usually results from hearing something which supports the deeply rooted inner feelings that we hold. When we hear such support, our mental barriers are dropped and everything is welcomed. We ask few questions about what we hear; our critical faculties are put out of commission by our emotions. Thinking drops to a minimum because we are hearing thoughts that we have harbored for years in support of our inner feelings. It is good to hear someone else think those thoughts, so we lazily enjoy the whole experience.

What can we do about these emotional filters? The solution is not easy in practice, although it can be summed up in this simple admonition: hear the man out. Following are two pointers that often help in training people to do this:. It requires self-control, sometimes more than many of us can muster, but with persistent practice it can be turned into a valuable habit.

While listening, the main object is to comprehend each point made by the talker. Judgments and decisions should be reserved until after the talker has finished. At that time, and only then, review his main ideas and assess them. Seldom do we make a search for evidence to prove ourselves wrong. The latter type of effort is not easy, for behind its application must lie a generous spirit and real breadth of outlook.

However, an important part of listening comprehension is found in the search for negative evidence in what we hear. If we make up our minds to seek out the ideas that might prove us wrong, as well as those that might prove us right, we are less in danger of missing what people have to say. When people in business fail to hear and understand each other, the results can be costly.

Such things as numbers, dates, places, and names are especially easy to confuse, but the most straightforward agreements are often subjects of listening errors, too. When these mistakes are compounded, the resulting cost and inefficiency in business communication become serious. Building awareness of the importance of listening among employees can eliminate a large percentage of this type of aural error.

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