Raw Reflections from the Journey

Monday, April 30, 2012

Three Levels of Loving Listening

"I got a massage this morning!", my friend boasted. "Well bully for you, buddy!" I retorted without thinking. "It must be nice to have the kind of money to indulge yourself like that. I sure don't." Needless to say, that was the beginning of an intense conversation that could have ended badly but instead strengthened our relationship. Just yesterday the tables were turned when I shared about some pleasurable indulgences of free time that aren't readily available to him because we are in different seasons of life. "Hey, can I just tell you that I'm hearing this the same way that you heard me about my massage?" Ooops. Guilty. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

Our conversation got me to thinking about this common breakdown in communication. "What is it?" The common denominator in both conversations was that the listener was listening from the perspective of what it meant to them. May I suggest that this is the lowest level of listening because it is self-focused? When I do this I'm apt to launch a conversation in my own mind in which I compare lifestyles, opportunities, blessings, etc., and that inevitably leads to self-pity, envy, jealously . . . in other words, nothing good. May I further suggest that the quality of our conversations and relationships would be much improved by eliminiating Level I listening from our repetoire? Level I - What it means to me

In comparision, Level II listening is What is means to them. At Level II you listen for what it means to the speaker. An easy way to do this is to simply ask, "What does that mean to you?" Another way is to reflect to them what they shared with you. One blessing at this level is found in Jesus's words, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." At level II you give the gift of listening and thereby provide an opporutnity for the speaker and yourself to understand and discuss the meaning of the thing(s) they want to share with you.

But Level III goes even further. Level III is listening for what something really means and/or what it means to God Take the instance of resignation from a long held job (ministry staff, teacher, therapist on a mental health unit, etc.). The Level of listening by those who are being left behind is a big part of the way they say goodbye; in anger or tears. Level I listeners hear the announcement of resignation according to what it means to them (e.g., more work, stress to train a new employee, jealousy that it isn't them who gets to leave for a glorious job). Level II listeners celebrate what the resignation means to the person leaving. Thus, they are genuinely happy for their former colleague.

But Level III listeners hear and see what a colleague's departure means for the Big Picture, such as the Kingdom of God. "We happily release you and bless you becasue we see and affirm the gifts and abilities God has given you for others. We have been blessed to be alongside you for a season, and we are excited not just because this is a great opportunity for you, but for those God is positioning you to serve!" As you consider Levels of listening, think about how you like to be listened to. I suspect you will say Level II or Level III. If so, know that we can each do our part to cultivate a culture of loving listening (Level II) and Kingdom listening (Level III).

So, let's get to it. Give the type of listening you would like to receive and it will probably come back to you (You reap what you sow).

Blessings, Jeff