WHEN I asked my wife about what she thought of the title of this article, she said it would be a near impossibility. It got me thinking of how often I’m able to listen with such intentional interest, yet maintain emotional control. There are some relationships and situations I really have to work at in this way, but, for the main part, I have adopted a method in my counselling training and practice where I’m able to ‘be with’ while being real. This is simply a matter of being with them whilst I’m real within myself about what I’m thinking and feeling. It is a moment-by-moment accountability, as I take my thoughts captive and bring them into obedience with Christ (2 Cor. 10:3-5).
At first it was a highly conscious activity, as if I were praying to God, every moment, “Help me be as present as I can be in this situation.”
But for some time I’ve found myself able to focus and concentrate in almost any one-to-one situation, even when I’m physically tired. But this still doesn’t cater for a neutral mind and heart. That’s another step removed; to monitor and manage our emotional responses as they occur.
But if we can truly listen, by screening out our biases as we they come into our mind-and-heart’s view, then we are a blessing.
Most people don’t want the burden of burdening people — especially to think they’ve been a burden. It’s a burden most bear regretfully. If we are able to offer someone a caring ear, we will relieve the potential for the other person to feel they are a possible burden. They’re much more likely to share openly. They have no fear they’ll be held culpable. We can offer them safety in their vulnerable moments.
Many people don’t want the added responsibility of being a listener, because the costs outweigh the benefits. And still, some find themselves in the role of listener; it is ‘who’ they are. And listening ‘neutrally’ is probably part of the package.
Listening with a neutral mind and heart is about keeping a check on our emotions, whilst seeing everything the person we’re listening to is saying as coming from their fair perspective. In other words, if we were them, we would see what they see, too.
People do things and think certain ways about things for valid reasons to them. It isn’t a leap, then, to ensure we don’t make more of a storm in a teacup than it should be. It pays to reserve our judgment.
Listening with a neutral mind and heart is about holding every word they say in balance, and weighing each word with the respect due them.
Listen with a neutral mind and heart and we inevitably make friends. Imagine what we would have given to speak with someone who would provide only loving wisdom. Such safety of relationship is implicit of our need in this age.
Trustworthy friends are listeners. Listening is a gift finer than gold. And true listening is hearing with a neutral mind and heart.
Listen with a heart to hear and a mind to understand, and people are heard in their heart and in their mind’s they’ll feel understood.
Listen to what is said and you will hear what is not being said.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.