The Importance of Listening

I call it, “the bull elephant trumpeting the herd.” Know what I mean? I’m thinking about the person who comes into a meeting at work, or worse yet, at church who has all the answers and is bound and determined to make sure everybody in the room knows it. He is not there to listen or seek to understand; he is there simply to stir the pot and leave others to clean up his mess as he makes his grand exit.

“Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.”

Proverbs 13:10

Merriam-Webster defines strife, “(1) bitter sometimes violent conflict or dissension; (2) exertion or contention for superiority.” Why does one behave this way, especially in professional and church settings? This is where pride rears its ugly head. Pride tells a person he must always be right. Pride tells a person she must always be the smartest in the room. Pride tells a person that the people in the meeting with him are of small importance and have little to offer. Pride says, “I will speak, you will listen.” In the church and in business, such behavior not only impedes progress, but it needlessly builds dissention and disunity – both of which can destroy a church and a business if allowed to take root. “Don’t be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

In his book and seminar entitled 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Stephen Covey famously said, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This, my friends, is wisdom. Wisdom casts personal pride aside and puts to interests of the group first. Wisdom looks around the room, sees value in everybody present, and earnestly seeks to hear what they have to say. Wisdom says, “I know I don’t have all the answers, but these people can help me discern the right path.” Wisdom seeks truth and understanding before forming opinions about what to say or what strategy to deploy. Wisdom listens first, asks meaningful questions, and thanks the team for their contributions. “Be that guy,” I remind myself constantly.

Which Jeff will I bring to work today? The prideful, arrogant Jeff (he’s there, trust me)? Or the wise, discerning Jeff (he’s there too, thank God). I seek wisdom for my life through God’s Word and the counsel of Christian friends whom I trust. Through this, I am equipped to leave the prideful, arrogant me in the background as I seek to lead my team with kindness, love, and – yes – wisdom. Time to go to work.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Communication

Have you ever said something, only to wish you could immediately recall the words that just escaped your lips? I sure have. Lots of times. Over the course of my life I’ve listened as several pastors prayed this verse as their sermon opening. I’ve adopted it as my morning prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NASB

As a witness for Christ in my workplace, I believe that my communications with coworkers, vendors, and customers is a key element of my witness. Indeed, I can “walk the walk” with every instant message (IM), text and email I send. Here are a few communication tips I seek to apply each day:

  • Listen. Communication does not occur if we don’t place a priority on listening to one another. I learned this wise saying at a Stephen Covey seminar: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Active listening demonstrates respect for the person with whom you are communicating while efficiently leading all parties to the most favorable outcome. One of the most meaningful compliments I’ve received in my career was the person who said, “You took the time to hear me out. Thank you.”
  • Use the Right Communication Tool. I appreciate the efficiencies offered by instant messaging, text messaging and email, and I use these tools daily. But we have all experienced occasions in which over-reliance on the written word led to misinterpretation of the message, personal misunderstanding, and even personal offense. The efficiency of these tools is lost if we seek to apply them to every communication scenario, every day, every time. While technology is grand and must be embraced, the most effective and efficient means of communication may often be a phone call or *gasp* a face-to-face conversation. I apply a two-exchange max rule to IM and text communications – if we have to go beyond that I will call you. It drives some of my younger coworkers nuts – but it works.
  • Avoid Profanity. Profanity is unprofessional, ugly and demeaning. It has no place in the workplace, and no place in my personal life either. I do not subscribe to the notion that a few strategically placed cuss words help drive the point home. Some refer to habitual profanity as “gutter mouth” or “potty mouth”. Considering some of the stuff that flows through gutters and gets flushed down toilets, I prefer to stay above that. Clean speech is elevated speech.
  • Grammar, Grammar, Grammar. A pet peeve of mine is the email rife with misspellings and poor grammar. I sometimes lament that professional writing skills seem to have diminished in importance for many. Several years ago, I became so frustrated with the poor quality of a third party provider’s written communications (many of which would be seen by my management team) I made them put the employees servicing my account through a professional writing course as a condition of retaining our business. For me, these things are a matter of corporate and personal pride. Although these are often “quick” communications, they bear my name, and that means something to me.
  • Remember Whom You Ultimately Serve. Seeking to abide by the above guidelines has served me well thus far in my career. But even more important than pleasing those with whom I work is honoring my Creator by my words and the quality of my work. If I approach my communications with this at front-of-mind, the rest actually comes rather naturally.

I am a firm believer in the notion of a “walking witness” – witness via action. I know that the words I choose and the manner in which I convey them are indicators of what really makes me tick. And maybe, just maybe, somebody will take notice and ask me about that. I hope that then that happens, I will discern the opportunity to talk about the One most important to me. In the meantime, I will pray my morning prayer and do the very best I can. For, you see, my work is my ministry.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019