“You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak,…” James 1:19
Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages communicated to us. Listening requires focus. As we will later learn from James, listening and hearing are two different things. Hearing is about sound perception or being informed of something.
The purpose of listening is to: obtain information, understand what is being communicated to you, and to learn.
As a woman with ADHD, I can’t say that I’m slow to speak. When my ADHD behaviour lets loose I can speak a lot; more than I personally care to. I’m not always quick to listen either. Learning to not go into a deep ADHD daydream when my mind isn’t being stimulated can be a real challenge for me. This verse is one that I’ve meditated on in the past. Despite having ADHD, I’ve had to embrace the challenge of learning to slow my mind down enough to engage in active listening while communicating with others.
Fellowship and respect for others requires that we listen to others; not just hear, but actually listen. James warns us to be, “… doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they are like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing” (James 1:22-25).
God wants us to listen to others with the same attention and care that He gives to us. If we don’t listen and hear what others are sharing with us, we are not truly paying attention to the other person. A lack of attention is a lack of care.
I do want to clarify and point out that I don’t believe James is chastising those of us who have issues with executive functions. We are not wicked nor are we bad or dishonest. Our sometimes inability to pay full attention and remember important information is not a result of sin, it is a result of a disorder. However, as believers it is imperative that we do work towards managing and improving our listening skills to the best of our ability. God never wants or accepts excuses; He asks us to be honest about our efforts to be holy.
There are different things we can do to increase our listening skills.
In Order To Listen Well:
- Be aware of the other person(s) body language (crossed-arms, tense body, relaxed body, etc.), facial expressions (eye movement, frown or smile, etc.).
- Make eye-contact without staring
- Remove as many distractions as you can. Depending on the who you are talking with and the occasion you might want to choose a quiet place to talk. Remove distracting items from your reach. Turn your mobile phone off and focus on the person(s) you are listening to. You can turn your phone on afterwards. If you insist on keeping your phone on, at least turn the ringer and silence all notifications off for a period of time.
- Aim to understand their point of view and remember to consider the context of what the person is talking about.
- Be patient. Don’t be quick to jump in and start talking with every pause the other person(s) is making.
- Focus on what is being said, be careful not to start making judgements or plan rebuttals in your head when you should be listening.
- Reflect back to the person what you heard, e.g. “What I’m hearing is…”, “If I understand correctly, what I hear you saying is…”.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand what is being said.
- Respond to the person appropriately. There is no need to react negatively to others. It is important to keep a calm composer when dealing with others. Don’t get pulled into the poor or inappropriate communication skills of others.
If you struggle with listening well to others, try some of the suggestions listed earlier in this post.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, so remember to give yourself grace, patience, and love when learning to listen well.
If you have trouble listening during interactions, sermons, bible studies, or group activities; don’t forget to pray to God and ask for His help and strength in building your listening skills.
If necessary, let others know that you have ADHD; this can go a long way in avoiding misunderstandings about you.
If you need additional resources, the following linked articles might be of help to you.