You’re Not Even Listening To Me – Part 1

A while back, I posted on the Active Listening course I took through AAIM. In that post, I promised some additional posts on the content of the course, and some of the things I had learned.

This will be the first of 4 follow-up posts to my original post. The four follow-ups will be as follows:

  1. Musings on Listening (this post).
  2. Barriers to Listening.
  3. Techniques for Listening (non-cheesy, I promise).
  4. Challenges for Listening.

Musings on Listening

As I sat in on this course on Active Listening, I was surrounded by other professionals from the workplace who were mainly there (as far as I could discern), to improve their listening skills and thereby increase their “worth” at work.

Their rationale seemed to go something like this:

  • If I listen better, I will be respected more.
  • If I’m respected more, I will be given more responsibility.
  • If I’m given more responsibility, I can get a promotion.
  • If I get a promotion, I can make more money.


After about 20 minutes into the half-day course, I was fairly confident that I was the only one there that wasn’t really there for “work”. Although, my gracious employer was the one funding my attendance, I was mainly motivated by inability to effectively listen in my personal life – not my work life.

As I pondered this (I had to tune out the instructor a bit in order to do so), I began to think about how I really don’t have any problems listening at work, or school, or church. Processing that in my mind, I began to ask myself ‘why is it that I have no problems listening at work (meetings, co-worker/boss conversations, etc) or school, or church, yet I have immeasurable difficulty listening at home (i.e. my wife)?’

Despite the easy answers like ‘my job/grade depends on it’ or ‘I can’t take notes when I’m talking with my wife,’ I think there is something deeper going on here. As I reflected on this, I began to see that for me, it is really a matter of importance – the importance that I place on the conversation.

Reflecting on this, I was able to begin to see my inability to effectively listen as rooted in sin. By working through this in depth, I identified the root of my deficiency to be selfishness (this wasn’t the direction of the class – the words ’sin’ and ’selfishness’ were never mentioned – but these were the synapses firing in my head). Basically, it goes like this:

  • We start a conversation (let’s say you initiate it), but I have ton of other crap on my mind: projects at work, things I want to do, how I can best pick my nose, etc.
  • Somewhere in to the conversation, I make a subconscious decision: is what you’re talking about more important than the crap in my mind.
  • If it is not, I tune out in some capacity.

Like I said, the root of this is selfishness and self-centeredness.

“Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3 ESV)

Another large problem with my personal listening skills is my tendency to begin to form a rebuttal or response. Often when I am listening (or think I am), I’m thinking of how I’ll respond (or how to solve your problem – after all, I’m an engineer). So half way through what my wife is saying, I’ve got a response all formed, but she’s not even done yet. The result is that I missed out on the second half of her message because I was selfishly crafting my response, solution, or defense (depending on the type of conversation!).

Again, this is rooted in sin. Lifting my thoughts, response, defense and “need to be heard” above hers.

A third failure I see in my own life is my inclination to tune out when it’s a topic that we’ve talked about over and over and over again. I tune out, writing it off as redundant and secretly pray for God to end the madness of pointless repetition.

When I do this, however, what I fail to recognize or give merit to is the reason for her wanting and needing to bring this up over and over and over again. Obviously (convicting) this topic must be really important to her if she continues to bring it up. But rather than recognize that, and care towards that, and try to comfort her in that, I tune out – at the crucial point in which she needs to be heard the most.

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25a ESV)

When I got home from the course, I shared some of these ideas with my wife and she was very understanding of what I had to say. I’m thankful that she is gracious and patient with me and I’m thankful that God forgives my sins of selfishness and self-centeredness.

It is estimated that we retain just 25% of what we hear.

May I learn to not just “hear” my wife, but “listen” to her as well.


~ by toddbumgarner on March 18, 2008 12:55 pm.

One Response to “You’re Not Even Listening To Me – Part 1”

  1. […] Part 1: Musings on Listening […]

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