Most of us have room to grow when it comes to listening well. It took the crunch of three kids, more work, and less time for me to realize that I was becoming less present with the people I claimed to love the most.
For example, I’d be working on something and my son would start talking to me. Instead of stopping what I was doing and pivoting to him, I would get annoyed, or interrupt, or pretend to listen, or just dismiss him. Not every time, but enough to know something needed to change.
So I thought and prayed about it and this was the result: Great listening is F.E.L.T. I’ve found this acronym to be extremely helpful when interacting with others and perhaps you will too.
Listening well requires (at least) four components: Focus, Energy, Love, and Time.
Focus. You cannot listen well while multitasking. You cannot listen well while thinking about something else. You can only listen well by stopping what you’re doing and focusing on the words, the tone, the timing, and body language of the other person.
Energy. Listening well requires bringing your full self to the conversation – your thoughts, your emotions, your will, your eyes. True listening is an act of giving your energy to another.
Love. Listening well is about more than just getting the facts. It’s about being genuinely interested in the other person and caring more about them than you do about yourself. It’s about seeing them with God’s eyes and relating to them with his heart. It’s about being compassionate, empathetic, and resonant. It means helping others FEEL understood and loved by you, not just heard.
Time. Reality check: if you’re too busy to listen, you’re too busy to love. When you slow down to listen, what you communicate is that the relationship is more important to you than the task. When you don’t slow down to listen, what you communicate is that the task is more important to you than the relationship. Some things take time, and listening well is one of them. It requires the patience to not interrupt or finish others’ sentences, even when you know what they want or where they’re going.
I don’t always get it right, but when I do listen well it makes a world of difference. The next time someone starts talking to you, work your way through the F.E.L.T. acronym and see what happens.