029: The Gravity of Listening


Episode Description:

Have you ever felt like lesser of a person when it seems like someone is counting the seconds until they wrap up their conversation with you? It feels like in today's culture we aren't very good listeners. We're more concerned with ourselves and less concerned about our relationships. In this episode of the podcast, we take a listen to why it's important for us to listen before we speak—to genuinely care about the words that are coming from those whom we're interacting with. Relationships are important and listening is a basic social practice for our relationships.


Episode Insights:

Being a good listener matters because it’s an empathic lifestyle that’s creates an authentic relationship.

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.” ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:3-5‬ ‭NLT‬‬


Question 1: Why Don't We Listen?

At the heart of our uninterested ears, we’ll find our own insecurities. Here’s what happens: someone talks about a problem they’re facing and what do we do? Probably one of two things— either one-up them with our problems or try and fix their problem.

We try to satisfy some feeling of inadequacy about our own problems. We can’t fix ourselves so we try to fix other people.

It Takes Two

A relationship at it’s simplest form is two people with care for one another. Every conversation we have is an investment in relational equity. It’s a chance for us to live real and be authentic while encouraging others to do the same. Through this mindset trust is built and love is grown.

Every conversation we have is an investment in relational equity.

What We Value

How we communicate reveals what we value and what we don’t. We're more authentic when we truly show what we value. Maybe the things we say we value aren't the things we actually value. So we either need to change what we value or change what we act like we value.


God's Intention for Us

No matter our motives, our mistakes or even our poor listening habits, God loves us! Because God loves us, we should want to love one another. That's a big deal. It’s a calling.


This is how God showed His love among us: He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through Him. 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11 Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. -1 John 4:9-11

No method or practice of listening is going to be effective without love.

If we’d stop thinking about what we think people should say and listen to more of what they have to say and why, then healing can allow unity to start happening.


Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. 20 Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. -James 1:19-20


How Can We Be Better Listeners:

We start by caring about people and then from that we can put these exercises into practice.


Avoid Distractions

This to me is the simplest place to start because I believe distractions keep us from truly being engaged in a conversation.


- If you’re meeting someone, leave your phone in your office, car or wherever. Just don't have it on you. If you wear a smartwatch that connects to your phone, be sure to either put it on Do Not Disturb or turn it off. Odds are you won't miss anything during that 45 minutes to an hour time.

  1. If you just can't bring yourself to leave your phone then it'll probably be worth putting it on Do Not Disturb or keeping it off the table. It will be a distraction if it's in front of you during your time with the other person.

  2. I understand that occasionally we’re expecting an important message. The best thing we can do is be upfront with the person in front of us and say, “Hey, I may get a message during our chat. Please don’t think I’m not interested, but it is something that’ll require my attention.” This subtle acknowledgment will actually break the possibility for tension between you and the other person.

- Be strategic not to meet in distracting places, like a restaurant with lots of TVs or in an overly crowded place where you have a hard time hearing one another.


- Eye contact is really important to them when it comes to people listening to them. Eye contact says I hear you and I care about what you have to say. Just...don't be creepy.


Practice Empathy

Most of us want to be better listeners, but we’re too concerned about ourselves to actually be better listeners. Selfishness robs us from any type of empathy. Empathy is walking hand-in-hand with people, caring about their every step, celebrating when they celebrate, and mourning when they mourn. Empathy has to be one of our values if we want to live an authentic life.


Practicing empathy means that we need to ask lots of questions, know what the other person values and needs, and find ways to encourage them.

"Genuine listening means suspending memory, desire, and judgment — and, for a moment at least, existing for the other person. ” - Michael Nichols

Note: His book "The Lost Art of Listening" is an incredible resource on this topic. Please note though there is some profanity in the book, so just a heads up.

Take Mental Notes

It's important for us to be active listeners. So as we hear important things that the other person has to say, we should take mental notes so that we can return the comment with questions or return to it later on, even at another meeting. Remembering little things like their spouse changing jobs or how they had trouble sleeping goes a long way when you ask them later on how those things are going.


Ask Good Questions

There's nothing more empathic to me than when I share something with someone and they say, "Tell me more." If you find yourself talking to someone about how they're struggling as a parent, then maybe ask them, "What's specifically happened to cause you to say that?" Or maybe someone is sharing about their vacation. You could ask them, "What was the most memorable part of the trip?" or, "Did you do anything you've never done before?"


These may seem like simple questions, but they communicate a lot. They communicate empathy and love for the other person.


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FULL TRANSCRIPT: Have you ever felt like lesser of a person when it seems like someone is counting the seconds until they wrap up their conversation with you? It feels like in today's culture, we aren't very good listeners. we're more concerned with ourselves and honestly less concerned about our relationships. In this episode of the podcast, we take a look as to why it's important for us to to be good listeners and to listen before we speak, to genuinely care about the words that are coming from those we're interacting with. Relationships are important. And listening is a basic social practice. For all our relationships. We can't deny it. So let's live real. Let's be authentic. And let's get try.


Hey Friends Welcome to this episode of the podcast as you heard already know, my name is Aaron Lee and I'm stoked that you're with us for this episode, I believe it's going to be a very important one important one to our relationships. But before we jump into that, did you know that we have a website that I have a website where you can find several resources to help you live real and be authentic. If you head over to Aaron T. T as in Travis not that that's my middle name. aarontlee.com. You can find things like show notes for the podcast and newsletter where you can stay up to date with new content and resources, as well as music that I've recorded. Now, what I what I use that music for is hopefully to be an encouragement to you. It has been an encouragement to me. If you didn't know I am a worship pastor. And so that's the connection to music for me but music has been a powerful, powerful encouragement for me throughout my anxiety struggles as well as living Authentic live so I think it's, it's it's a powerful piece to helping us get out there and live real and be authentic. So if you want to check out the website, be sure to jump over to aarontlee.com.


With the podcast we'd love it if you'd share the podcast on your Facebook profile or Instagram story, but please rate and review as well. That's really important. And as always, it helps get the word out about what we're trying to do with let's get trying now let's jump into our next segment called authentic minute with Aaron.


Okay, I don't know about you guys, but do you feel like that little intro to the segments is too cheesy? I'm just wondering if you're shaking your head right now. I mean, I meant to be funny kind of feel like an old school Full House episode. I'm coming a little self conscious about it. Oh, well. In this week's authentic minute with Aaron. We're looking at a quote by Henry David Thoreau and the quote, this is what it says, want you to listen real closely, it's kind of wordy. So just listen real closely, be yourself. Not the idea of what you think someone else's idea of yourself should be. Want to say that again, be yourself, not your idea of what you think someone else's idea of yourself should be. You know, we live in a world where that's constantly trying to tell us who we should be. And for me, the most authentic thing we can do is be ourselves. Now, that's going to take some real risk. And it's going to require us to not be afraid to put things out there not to be afraid to celebrate things that we're excited about, and also not to be afraid to share things that we're struggling with. And all this hits home. With our topic from our last episode, the comparison trap, if you haven't listened to that episode, it's Episode 28. And you should go back and listen to it because it really is important to this topic of being ourselves. Not getting caught up in the comparison trap. And I think what is so valuable for us is to see that the world is going to tell us how to live our lives. But honestly, the only person that we should be comparing ourselves to is Jesus. And we want to be more like Him. So with Thoreau's quote where he says, Be yourself, I say that's so important, but I'll add, be yourself and only compare yourself to Jesus.


Alright, let's get down to the nitty gritty. What does it mean to be a good listener? And why does it matter? Well, the why it's always the most important question we should ask. It takes us down to I would say the foundation and shows us what something was built on. The reason why being a good listener matters is because it's an empathetic lifestyle. That creates an authentic relationship. I want you hear that again. being a good listener matters because it's an empathetic lifestyle that creates authentic relationship. In other words, caring about what someone has to say builds a relationship where two people can trust each other, they can trust one another. You see, people don't just want you to listen to them. They want to feel heard. They want to feel connection. And there's a difference between being heard and being listened to. And we'll get to that in just a second. All right, so I mentioned this chapter in an earlier podcast, but it goes to wealth, the why of being a good listener, I thought it was important for us. To mention this one. Again, Paul is talking to the church of Phil pi. And and here's what he says in Philippians. Two, Don't be selfish. Don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interest, but take an interest in others to you must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had that's Philippians, two, three through five and that's the NLT translation. But isn't that a great For what it means to be a good listener, you're being considerate, you're not being selfish, and you're looking to someone else's interests. And so that's what people want.


But why do we have so much trouble being listeners being good listeners in life today? You know, I don't know that there's a simple answer for this. But for the purpose of today's episode, I thought it would be good if we just focused on two questions. The first question is, why don't we listen? And the second question is, how can we be better listeners? That's it. I think our approach has to be simple. And honestly, I think these simple questions could be a great resource for our relationships. And I'm not just talking about our really, really close relationships, I'm talking about the interactions we have with other human beings. So our relationships are going to depend on this and they need us to grow in healthy ways. So we have to be willing to do the work. I do want to clarify one more thing before we jump into these questions. When I use the word listening, I'm not just talking about us hearing the words that a person is saying. I'm also talking about how we're communicating back to those we're listening to see, here's something really crazy studies have shown that somewhere between 70 and 93%, of all communication is nonverbal. Yes, 70 to 93% is nonverbal. That means that your facial expressions are communicating something, it means that you've been on your phone during a meeting might be communicating that you're bored, disagreeable, or uninterested in what that person that's that's leading the meeting has to say. Our posture can also communicate boredom and it can it can communicate a desire to want to get out of there leave a lack of eye contact could communicate that we're lying or embarrassed or disinterested. All of this matters. And it matters because listening is also communication. It's an art that requires us To know what's being said, and and to know how we are communicating to the person that's speaking. And this sets up so well, our first question, why don't we listen?


If living an authentic life is what we're striving for, then we need to unpack the inauthentic life that we're living when it comes to relationships and communication. My heart breaks man, it breaks so hard for all the times that I've ignored. For all the times I've halfway listened or checked out of have a conversation with someone. I mean, really, what does that communicate to them it communicates that they aren't valuable enough to keep my attention and honestly, because of that I should be convicted to my core. That's not the way we should treat people or that's not the way we should live life. Now, I want you to hear me there's always exclusions to this, especially if you have boundaries with someone or if the person you're talking to is abusive in their words. That isn't what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the basic human interaction with those we encounter in those we love. If there's someone who is abusing this, that's a totally different thing. At the heart of our uninterested ears, I think we'll find insecurity. Now, I'm sure those of you are listening. And our regular listeners have heard this word a million times, and you're probably tired of it. But I really believe it's the root of most of our issues. Here's what happens. someone talks about a problem they're facing and what do we do?


Think about it. What do we do? What What is your go to thing when someone talks about a problem? It's probably one of two things. Either one, we want up the other person. So we say that our problems are worse than theirs, or we try to fix their problem. Neither one is about the other person. They're all about us. It's about not feeling heard. So we we bulldoze our way through the conversation. When we flatten any remnants of the other person's problem, or if we take the fixer approach, we, we try to satisfy some feeling of inadequacy about our own problems. We can't fix ourselves. So we try to fix other people. The next time you're sitting at a lunch or coffee with a friend, pay real close attention to yourself now. Now that kind of goes contradictory to what we're talking about here, you need to be a listener, but it's important to do an evaluation of yourself. So which way do you lean if you intently listen and genuinely care about the needs of the other person and, and there's nothing about yourself in that then man, you got it. And I don't know that you really need to listen to much more of this. But if you're like me, and you find yourself drifting into one of these two lanes where you're either bulldozing the conversation, or you're trying to be the fixer, then stick with me because I believe these are the problems that cause us to not be good listeners. And I believe it's worth us taking evaluation. So let's ask ourselves this question What? What would you say makes a relationship? Is it knowledge? Is it the ability to fix a problem? No, a relationship at its simplest form is to people who care about one another. Pretty simple, right? As the old song by Marvin Gaye goes, takes to baby, it takes two conversations require two people unless you hear voices in your head, and that's probably something you want to get looked at. Anyway, every conversation we have is an investment in relational equity. Think about that every conversation we have is an investment in relational equity. It's a chance for us to live real and be authentic, while encouraging others to do the same. Through this mindset. Through this, this perspective, trust is built and guess what love is grown. Yeah, that's awesome. how we communicate reveals what we value and what we don't. When we walk away from a conversation or hang up the phone, do we really remember what the other person said? If all we remember is the great points we made or the debate we won, then clearly, we should be able to see what we value and what we don't. We can't let our love for our own voice drown out the voice of those who long to be heard. So what do you value? What are the things that you get righteously angry about? Is it family? Is that trust? Is it deep, meaningful relationships? If so, are you actually being authentic in those things? If you value family, then Then do you listen to your kids when they have something to say? If you value trust, do you protect intimate conversations with a friend like a treasure that you never want? Found? How about deep meaningful relationships? If you value that then you should want that other person to be heard, and to be loved. See, here's the thing, we're more authentic when we truly show what we value. Now, the flip side is maybe the things we say we value aren't the things we actually value.


This means that, that maybe you say you value trust, but internally your judgement about the that struggle that your friend shared with you, is eating you up and you can't wait to gossip about it. Either way to be fully authentic, our values internally and externally have to match up. So we either need to change what we value or we need to change what we act like we value. I want you to hear that because that's what it means to be authentic. We either need to change what we value or we need to change what we act like we value that's the only way it's gonna line up. Now I realize that this stuff that we've talked about up to this point can feel heavy, it can feel discouraging, and, and I want you to hear me when I say this, God loves us, no matter our motives, our mistakes, or even our poor listening habits. God loves us. And because God loves us, He wants us to love one another. And that's a big deal. It's a calling. I think it fights against all these things in this world that that try to pull us down and I know like, as a person who struggles with anxiety, I have to focus on other people. I have to show them love. Because if I don't, I will live in my head and it will drowned my soul. I want you to hear this passage from first john four. This is how God showed his love among us. He sent His one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. Listen to this. This is love. Not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an adult. Tony sacrifice for our sins. Now grab hold of this verse right here, dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. Do you see why this is a big deal? God loves you. God loves you so much that He paid the price for your mistakes. He paid the price for my mistakes He paid the price for, for our lack of love for a brother or sister. But he doesn't want us to stay there. I want you to hear that he doesn't want us to stay there. He wants us living out the same love that he so graciously gives to us. No method or practice of listening is going to be effective. Without love. That's the bottom line. Just go ahead and acknowledge that and embrace it or don't do it at all. So we have to allow the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us to to love better, and from that love will be better listeners.


All right, and I feel like we need to have a real Family discussion, we need to talk about the current state of things in our world right now. And, and recently, I had a great conversation with my friend and my Barber, Mike, he, he just reminded me, just so simply he reminded me of the importance of not getting caught up in our opinions. But maintaining a heart for one another. love for one another has to come before our beliefs in politics or racism or any other dividing topic and before you say, but please think about this. by loving someone, first, you're living out that same example of how God showed us to love in first john 149 through 11. When when you get angry and lash out on social media, what do you think you're doing? You're not doing any good. And please hear me. I don't care what side of the fence you fall. It's not helping. When you post them About how other people aren't talking about this enough, not talking about this problem enough, you know what you're not helping. You're only adding fuel to a fire that's keeping us from loving one another. Because the problem is we're only focused on the actions of other people. We're not focused on the person of one another. If we would stop thinking about what we think people should say, and listen to more to what they have to say and who they are, then healing could actually allow unity to take place. Just because we love and listen to those people first doesn't mean that our beliefs have to align. I'm not saying that. But it allows us to have vulnerable and genuine dialogue that gets to the core of one another. Remember that people don't just want you to listen to them. They want you to care about them. They want to be heard. Think about that. If we could get past the room lack of a better term crap that's on the surface of all this and we actually treated people like human beings. Man, I think the world could be a different place.


I want you to listen to another scripture. And once you let it sink in, because I don't want you to take my word for all of this. I want you to take the Lord's Yes, Jesus Juked you. Here's what he says in James 1:19 and 20. Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters, you must be quick to listen. slow to speak and slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. Holy crap people live this out. It's about love. It's not about a political view. Remember what we talked about earlier, only compare yourself to Jesus. I think that's where we need to be. I know it's where I need to be. That's how I love and care for you. And that's how I love and care for my brothers and sisters who are hurting. Not by fighting. Okay? I'm sorry if that bothers you or makes you uncomfortable, but I would be sending if I didn't follow the Lord's conviction on me. This stuff, man, it's, it's pulling so many of us down. It's agonizing.


Okay, we've talked about all that. I want us to shift gears for a second and talk about the practical ways that we can become better listeners. We know the why now. Now we need to know the how. So I want us to spend the remainder of our time talking through some exercises to help Be more present, and more active listeners. So let's now go to that second question. How can we be better listeners? Obviously, I harp on this a lot in this episode, but I think we just got to start by caring about people. And then from that we can put these exercises that we're going to talk about here in just a second into practice. But if the majority of your important conversations happen at lunch or coffee, then this first exercise, it's really important, but it's important even if you're sitting at the kitchen table with your spouse, it can, it can cover all relationships. The first exercise I want to mention is to avoid distractions. This for me is like the simplest place to start when, when it comes to, to live being a better listener because I believe distractions keep us from being engaged in a conversation. I mean, think about it, you're sitting and talking to someone when suddenly they get a text and the text would be fine, but They break eye contact and they begin reading the text at length. Okay, well that's all right. And if that isn't enough, they decide to then go and respond to that text. All of this is while you're still talking and and I don't know about you but how does that feel? What does this communicate to you? For me it communicates that I'm not important enough to be listened to. And it would feel like I'm not valued in complete transparency. I've been bad about doing this in the past and, and definitely feel it's it's staying when it's on the receiving end. So how about you have you had this happen to you before? Or have you done it to someone else? But what we what should we do? here a couple things I think we can do.


The first is if we're meeting someone, we should just leave our phone, in our office car or wherever. You don't have to have it on us. And for you, you folks that are wearing a smartwatch that connects to your phone and be sure to put that thing on Do Not Disturb or turn it off. You see, there was a time I don't know if you know this, there was a time not too long ago when people only had landline phones. Man, do you know what the length of what a landline phone is? Well, if you don't go Google it and you'll figure it out. But trust me, they survived, going out into the world, in having lunch with someone or coffee with someone without having a phone on them. Odds are you won't miss anything during that 45 minutes to an hour that you're with this other person. Now, if you're too stubborn, because I'm going to call you that you're too stubborn and can't bring yourself to leave your phone, then it would probably be worth just at least putting it on Do Not Disturb or turning it off or putting it off the table. You don't want it to be a distraction, and it will be a distraction, if it's sitting right in front of you and you're getting notifications the whole time and it will distract the other person as well. Secondly, I understand that occasionally we're expecting important messages. That's that's life. That's reality and the best thing we can do is be upfront. With the person who's in front of us and just say, Hey, I might get a message or a phone call or chat, I just I don't want you to think I'm not interested. It's just really important. And it will, it will require my attention. But you know what this subtle little acknowledgement to that person will actually break the tension if you do get a phone call or a text that you need to respond to, and it will just really help out.


The second thing we can do to avoid distractions is be strategic not to meet in distracting places. If you go to a restaurant has a lot of TVs or it's overly crowded, which is not really common right now. But anyway, you may have a hard time hearing or listening to the other person and think about how attentive you are in those kind of places. If you're anything like me, then I'm just totally distracted. I have ADHD. I want to know what everything that's going on around me. I want to know all the things that are happening. And so it can just make me struggle mentally. And here's the third way we can avoid distractions in our conversations. When asked a lot of people say that eye contact is really important to them. When it comes to people listening to them, you know, it shows that you're engaged. And by being distracted, our eyes are not on the other person now, eye contact says, I hear you, I care about you. And I care about what you have to say. But the thing is, just don't be creepy with it. People like you could be, you can be weird. Anyway. See, I hope you see that these things can be applied to everyday life and not just to scheduled meetings, but they can be applied to the interactions you have with your spouse, your kids, or even random people that you make small talk with this small, but not exhaustive list. It leads to the next thing that we can do better as listeners, and that's practice empathy.


Let's be real honest for a moment. Most of us want to be better listeners, but we're too concerned with ourselves to actually be better listeners. And here's what happens. So selfishness robs us from any type of empathy. Empathy is walking hand in hand with people caring about their every step celebrating when they celebrate and mourn when they mourn. Empathy has to be one of our values if we want to live an authentic l