us, at one time or another, have found ourselves caught in the loop of
wondering: is God speaking to me? Am I hearing correctly? Or am I hearing only
what I want to hear? How do I know if I’m actually open to what God has to say?
how our openness to God isn’t necessarily tied to any particular emotional
feeling, but rather has to be understood in the context of our lives as a
whole. How we live indicates how much weight our deeper desires should carry
in the process of our discernment which unfolds in conversation with God.
The question “am I truly open to hearing God?” can only be answered in light of the more fundamental question: do I live like I’m open to God? Because how we live determines if we make space for God regularly. We’re usually open to hearing God if we’re leading a listening kind of life.
How do we know if we’re leading a listening kind of life?
Do you dread difficult conversations? I don’t know anyone who looks forward to them, although rhinos do tend to mind them less than hedgehogs. Unfortunately, difficult conversations are a part of life; fortunately, there are some ways to make them a little easier.
Often when we’re caught in a difficult conversation, we want either the circumstances or the other person to change. Very often, they don’t. Or won’t. But making a difficult conversation easier starts with what we can actually control: our own expectations and attitudes.
difficult situation arises, what’s your default mode of approach? Are you
willing to charge into the conflict, head-first? Or do you just want to curl up
in a ball and make everyone go away?
Knowing your tendencies can go a long way in improving your response to conflict in all sorts of relationships. Nicky and Sila Lee, authors of The Marriage Book, offer two pictures of how people deal with conflict: becoming either a rhinoceros, or a hedgehog.
If you tend
to be a “rhino”, chances are you’re willing to get aggressive when dealing with
difficult issues. You’ll want to ‘have it out’ in a fight, rather than walk
away from the problem. A rhino charges straight in, horn pointed and ready to attack.
But if you’re
a “hedgehog”, you’re much more likely to want to avoid conflict. When things
get challenging, you’ll want to stop the conflict by shutting down. A hedgehog
curls up in a ball and sticks its prickly spines out so no one can hurt it.
When is the last time you felt listened to? Truly heard – confident that the other person wanted to understand what you were trying to communicate?
Good communication takes time and skill: not just on the part of the talker, to express themselves clearly. It also depends upon the hearer, who can listen well or poorly.
Sometimes, we communicate to convey information, while other times we communicate to build up a relationship, to reveal an aspect of ourselves to another person.
Good listening, unlike speech, isn’t a skill that is really taught in schools or even in the home. Parents want children to listen, but that often just means “obey.” In adult life, listening isn’t often related to obedience, though. Adult relationships (and relationships with our children) require us to be truly present to another person: a difficult thing in our culture of constant technological distraction and perpetual multi-tasking.
So how do you know if someone has the skill set of listening? How do you know if you’re a good listener? Here are 7 signs to look for.