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Are You Listening?
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Have you ever stopped whatever you were doing and simply listened to and tried to identify all the sounds around you? It's amazing how much sound and noise bombards our senses through the course of a day. No wonder we get in the habit of tuning out—it's sensory overload.

But as a result of this filtering, we also develop the tendency to devalue sound, to get so used to picking and choosing what we listen to that we disengage from the present and miss hearing what we could. You've no doubt had the experience of talking to someone who keeps looking at their watch or glancing around. Frustrating to say the least!  And that distracted person ends up missing out on what you feel is so important—your heart. Both of you become victims of real loss.

Research studies by the International Listening Association report that we typically spend about 45 percent of our time listening, but we are distracted, preoccupied, or forgetful about 75 percent of that time. The average attention span for adults is about 22 seconds. Immediately after listening to someone talk, we usually recall only about half of what we've heard; within a few hours, only about 20 percent.

Impacts Relationships

This inability to really listen unfortunately impacts our relationships in profoundly negative ways: we don't connect deeply with people. And it impacts our spirituality: we aren't fully present to God either. Have you ever stopped to think about how much you've missed by not listening?

Could this be why the poet quotes God in Psalms 46:10 as saying, "Be still and know that I am God?"  The ability to know and experience God comes in the willingness to quiet the many distractions and noises all around and within in order to focus and pay attention to God.  It involves learning how to be fully present to God—and that necessarily involves listening, which necessarily involves selective filtering, which ultimately enhances meaningful connection. Deep listening is an art that must be learned and practiced. It's a discipline of giving attention to what matters most and the willingness to invest adequate time in it. Not always easy, but certainly ultimately rewarding, especially if you value your social and spiritual relationships!  So how do you feel about your listening skills?

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By Greg Nelson. Copyright © 2011 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines. Scripture take from the NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®.

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