In which Ruth ponders listening

Listening makes up a large part of my job. Listening to stories. Listening to the unspoken word. Listening to symptoms. Listening to sadness and worries and troubles. Listening to anecdotes and funny tales. Listening to overheard conversations.

Listening is really important in ministry. Listening and not leaping in with your own story. And that is sometimes hard to do. Sometimes I find myself biting my lip to prevent myself diving in with my own contribution. Perhaps it is worse when you are an extrovert, desperate to be witty and amusing and take over the centre stage. I have a tendency to do that. To wait for the gap, the breath when I can leap in. To lighten the mood, to not sit with the sadness. Someone recently told me that ministry wasn’t all about telling people that they are loved by God. Sometimes you need to sit with the dark bits.

Today I came across this poem/prayer so I share it with you (and me). (And I hope the author doesn’t mind me sharing it.)

How good are we at listening to other people? – Nov 06
I am listening to you, honestly,
But I’m also thinking about what I’m going to say next
I hate embarrassed gaps in conversation when no one knows what to say
I want you to think that I’m interesting, funny, witty
So I’m lining up my response, getting it ready

I am listening to you, honestly,
But I hope you don’t go on too long
I want to catch the final scores, to find out how my team has done
And I need to ring my friend before he goes out for the evening
Then ‘I’m a celebrity’ is on TV and I don’t want to miss that
So make it quick and you don’t need to repeat yourself

I am listening to you, honestly,
But I’m also thinking about what happened at work this week
And what I’ve got to do next week
I’m going to be in trouble if I don’t get that report written
And I need to work out why my colleague isn’t talking to me
So it’s quite hard to hear what you’re saying
over all this internal noise

I am listening to you, honestly,
But that group over there looks like they’re having a much better conversation
They’re laughing and joking
I’d really like to get to know some of them
Not that you’re not important – of course you are
I just wish I had the chance to speak to them too

I am listening to you, honestly,
But to be honest, I wish you’d really listen to me
Just for once, to pay attention to what I have to say
without jumping in with your experience and your solutions
I don’t want you to solve my problems
I just want you to hear me
To hear the me behind the words
To really listen


2 thoughts on “In which Ruth ponders listening

  1. I think you have hit the nail on the head with identifying the central issue as being about personality types. As an extrovert I know that I need to talk to in order to know what I am thinking. So it is not about ‘me first’ but about the way I communicate. My listening is bound up with interaction. My commenting is also my way of affirming others’ thoughts and experiences. At times it may be the right thing to sit and listen and not comment, but don’t be hard on yourself. You are what you are, and in that you are a gift to those to whom you minister.

  2. Thank you, Zam. That’s helpful. I do need to talk to communicate and as I get my energy from being with people that’s all tied up with that too.

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