Be swift to hear, slow to speak (James 1:19.)
My Listening Skills module begins tomorrow. I hope to learn a lot from it - mainly, I think, how to put the theory into practice! I have the potential to be a good listener, possibly counsellor. I possess empathy, intuition and understanding. People are comfortable opening up to me - about life, death, illness, children, infertility, miscarriage, pregnancy, sexuality, work problems, money problems, I suppose the list is never-ending! When I went for the Ministry selection process, I was taken aback when my interviewees emphasised that one of the most important things I can do as a confidant is to be myself - to use the raw skills God gave me, that people are already drawn to. I hope not to lose sight of these natural qualities as I begin my course of ten taught sessions, lots of reading, and some listening practice.
But I also need to put myself aside in certain - and perhaps all situations. Not the listener self, but the TALKER. Now, I could probably talk the hind leg of a mule. But a lot of it is truly meaningless chit-chat... not that I don't enjoy and engage in more profound discussions . But, as someone who was formerly shy and can be introverted, many of my responses to people who are either talking to me, or just being there, are often unnecessary words. Words to fill a silence, to ensure they know I understand, to try to give an example of something similar that I or someone I know has experienced, to be friendly, to be polite, to stop feeling nervous or anxious, to be liked.....and this is not the way things should be all the time, whether personally or professionally.
So I am looking forward to learning more about the rules - which, as I understand it, emphasise the being Swift to Hear part (as my book by Michael Jacobs begins) and teaches why it is important to be slow to speak. I have been trying to practice this for the past few years - putting my own agenda and interests aside, not referring to 'helpful' examples, ensuring there is plenty of silence for someone else's voice to fill, someone who is hurting and has something to SAY, rather than dribble my trite words into the world. But at what point does this process become learned and intuitive, rather than something I have to think about doing? How much of myself should I put in, and how much to leave out?
There has to be a balance, and I need to learn it. Not all of my pleasantries and connecting words will be inane; some of my contextualisation may be necessary. There may be times when I need to direct and guide. But not to proffer unsolicited advice. Some of this may occur without realising it, but a lot has to be learned. It's about HOW to speak, WHEN to speak, when NOT to speak.....being slow to speak, responding carefully, in a considered way, often informed by prayer, often channelling God's wisdom into that moment.
Roll on Session One - let's see if I can REALLY listen, and HEAR what others are saying, without my own (internal and external!) cacophony getting in the way!