I recently ran across this anonymous statement:
“It is better to listen in order to understand than to listen in order to reply.”
Here is an excerpt from Carta del norte from 25 March 2008 which is on the subject of listening. After these two years I’ve still not mastered this most critical of arts!
I’m reading the book, Creating Understanding, by Donald K. Smith. (Zondervan, 1992) One excerpt, which I’ll give you shortly, reminded me of a great word in the Old Testament. The word, aw-zan is translated, “give ear to” or “hearken” in the KJV and “hear” or “listen” in newer translations. There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. Right now I’m hearing the music streaming from my computer, but I’m not really listening to it and have no idea what it is. But it is pleasing to my ears and relaxes me. Listening is a very active exercise, while hearing is passive. Aw-zan is an active verb in Hebrew, and I for one need to learn to listen more often and more carefully. Here are David Augsburger’s Ten Commandments for Hearing (read, aw-zan) as quoted by Smith:
- I will first understand, then judge. I will suspend judgment, postpone evaluation, defer closure until the other feels heard.
- I will not fill in the gaps with my ideas. I will listen to you, not to my improvements, my embellishments or my supporting data.
- I will not assume that the intent in you and the impact on me are the same. I will not infer that you said what I heard, think as I thought, meant what I felt.
- I will attend to your words, your feelings, your meanings. I will not ramble off, race ahead, or drop off asleep.
- I will listen to your whole message, even if I would rather not hear it, see it, consider it.
- I will avoid wishful hearing. I will neither use my ears to hear what the heart wants to hear, not the mind to filter what the head will head.
- I will test both your meanings and my meanings until they meet. The content of your words is yours. I want to discover it. The word is the package, the meaning is the contents.
- I will listen to your full statement without using your time to polish my response or prepare my arguments.
- I will not be afraid to listen, to learn, to change, to grow. The listener is not inferior, the speaker superior; each enriches the other.
- 10. I will respect your right to be equally heard; I will claim my right to be equally heard.
For the use of aw-zan, you might want to look up Exo 15.26; Deu 1.45, 32.1; Neh 9.30; Psa 5.1; Pro 17.1; Ecc 12.9 and Isa 1.2 as sample texts.