In disagreements during our 15 years of marriage, Marcy has sometimes said to me, "You need to accept my feelings." Whenever she would say that, I would think, I know I'm being an insensitive clod, but I don't even know what that means! Because men tend to be less in touch with feelings than women, I suspect many couples have had similar experiences.

When Marcy came with a problem, I tried to FIX it. My goal was to share something helpful. I didn't realize Marcy needed something else first--she needed to feel understood.

When a person comes to us with a problem, they may not want an answer. Sometimes a person wants to know whether they can share a weakness and still be accepted. There is healing simply in being understood--even if the listener never shares anything.

Proverbs 18:2 says, "A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion." I have always taken pleasure in sharing something helpful with people; now God wants me to take pleasure in trying to understand where people are coming from.

We must be willing to hear about all the petty concerns and interests and desires and hopes. If we can learn to do this, then as we listen carefully and watch, we shall hear that person make a tentative statement of something more. We shall find that the other is trying to let us into a deeper and more sensitive level of his being. The novel experience of being listened to has raised his hopes. Perhaps there is another who cares after all, one who would understand! Certainly we can never believe that a person cares about us until he will listen to us. If we accept these first tentative tests of our acceptance, then the floodgates open and the whole human being pours out with his guilt and faults and sins, with his sense of despair and inadequacy and loneliness.

The value of this kind of listening is beyond words. How can we love and deal creatively with a person we do not know? How can we know someone to whom we have not listened? The ability to listen is a prerequisite to love. The fine art of listening will unlock more doors in life than anything else I can think of.

--Morton T. Kelsey Dove Publications

Suggestions for Becoming a Better Listener:

* Count the speaker as more important than yourself.

* Maintain good eye contact.

* Focus on understanding what someone is saying rather than on how you will respond.

* If you're not sure you understand, explore what was meant by asking questions. Describe the way you think he/she is feeling and ask if you heard correctly.



Jamie Lash






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