July 14, 2015

by Luciano Del Monte

Years ago I read a book by Christian Swiss Psychiatrist Paul Tournier called To Understand Each Other. The whole book is powerful although only 63 pages in length. It has amazing insights that make us more effective and empathetic people builders. The big idea in the book for me was one I have been training myself to apply for the last 30 years. I have made some progress but I know I still have a long way to go.

Dr Tournier writes, “It’s impossible to overemphasize the immense need humans have to be really listened to, to be taken seriously, and to be understood.”

Sounds like the prayer of St Francis who prayed in the 1200s “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace…help me to seek to understand rather than to be understood.”

Below is the continuing installment of my coworker, Dwight Hill on Listening as it applies to personal discipleship.

good listening


Discipleship and the art of listening go hand in hand. In the discipling process it is difficult to significantly influence people you do not understand, and you cannot understand those whom you do not truly listen to. In this series of “Facts” I will continue to present two principles of listening (Empathy and Restraint), and three principles of responding to what you have heard as a result of listening (Gentleness, Wisdom, and Building up). Listening has two components: Empathy and Restraint. Let’s continue our discussion of empathy:

  1. Empathy: Empathetic listening has to do with seeking “first to understand and then to be understood” (as Steven Covey reminds us in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”). Covey elaborates: “‘Seek first to understand’ involves a very deep shift in paradigm. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people do not listen with the intent to be understood; they listen with the intent to reply. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives.” Thus we would do well to cultivate the eloquence of sympathetic silence.
  2. Restraint: Often our first reaction in conversation is to speak before we have truly heard the other person out. Perhaps that’s why Solomon reminds us that “a fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions” (Pro. 18:2). Which makes me wonder if we are aware of the destructive potential of the tongue:
    • “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (Jms.. 3:6).
    • “The tongue has the power of life and death…” (Pro. 18:21a).
    • “Reckless words pierce like a sword.” Conversely, “the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Pro. 12:18a).

Thus it behooves us to keep in mind that unrestrained speech is a practice that can lead into sin (Proverbs 10:19), our ruin (Pro. 13:3), and gives evidence of our gross lack of good judgment (Pro. 11:12). “He who answers before listening– that is his folly and his shame…Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue” (Pro. 18:13; 17:28).

So…in our interaction with others, let’s keep in mind the fact that “a man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered” (Pro. 17:27).


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