Do you have 20/20 hearing?

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Like a lot of people my age, I have to wear glasses.  To clarify, there is nothing wrong with my eyesight.  I just developed a “situation” at about age 40: my arms started getting shorter. It is a strange and paradoxical condition, because it only shows up when I am attempting to read.  I still have trouble finding shirts with 36” sleeves for my gorilla arms, but if my sleeve length were being measured for reading, rather than wearing, they would have to be measured in feet instead of inches.

Fortunately, they make those progressive lens bifocals for conditions like mine. A little correction at the bottom and clear glass at the top helps me to bring everything (pretty much) into focus so that I am at least 20/20 with correction.

If you were to ask Mrs. Sweetie, she might tell you that hearing aids should be my next upgrade.  The most common word at our house is, “huh?” The most common phrase is, “Please tell me what you just said, because you could not have said what I just heard.”  Makes for some interesting conversations.

I don’t actually know how hearing is quantified.  There is probably no such thing as 20/20 hearing, but I was introduced a few months back to the concept of “20/20 listening” while meeting with a church planter on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. He was training his students on how to build relationships with people with the hope of engaging in spiritual conversations.

Here’s the 20/20 listening technique: you talk for 20 seconds and listen for 20 minutes.

There are things that sound easy, but are really hard to do.  This one doesn’t even sound easy! I’ve heard that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we would listen twice as much as we speak.  That would be 10 minutes of talking to every 20 minutes of listening.  In my training as a life coach, we talk about talking 20 percent of the time and listening 80 percent of the time. That would be 5 minutes of talking and 20 minutes of listening.  But 20 seconds to 20 minutes?  Holy gag order, Batman!

Here’s the deal: we need to be intentional and disciplined as listeners for at least 4 reasons.

  • We are not good at it! Seriously, most of us stop listening within seconds.  Even if we are not speaking, we are thinking about what we are going to say.
  • Even good listeners can get better.  But not without doing it on purpose.
  • We need to learn to listen beyond the words that are spoken.  “Listen” to emotion, to body language, to fears.
  • Every person has a “story.” When we really listen to their story, we communicate that they matter. They may not believe they matter to God until they believe they matter to us.

Question: Can you think of someone who could benefit from your 20/20 listening?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, argumentative, off-topic, or just plain unhelpful.