“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people don’t know the difference.” David Augsburger
Most people think of listening as a tennis match where you volley the conversation ball back and forth, back and forth. I listen to what you have to say, think about how it relates to me, then volley back my response to you. It all seems well and good. You may even feel that you are showing how well you relate to what the other person is saying. That’s important and courteous, right? It is, sometimes, but sometimes it is the absolute worst thing you can do.
There is another kind of listening that’s needed at times. This kind of listening is more like fishing than a good game of tennis. So let’s call it “Deep Sea Listening.” With Deep Sea Listening, it is as if you lower you hook (fasten ears and eyes on your friend) into the water and wait. When you feel the line become taut, you know you must reel in your catch. Just like fishing, if you are in the middle of a catch, you don’t throw in another line. You patiently and persistently pull whatever is down in the depths up to the surface. When you Deep Sea Listen, you join hands with God to bring issues, feelings, insights and healing to the surface in the life of your friend.
How do you know when to go Deep Sea Listening?
It is not:
- When you’re shooting the breeze as you shop with a friend at the mall
- When you’re trying to connect with your spouse during a commercial break
- When you’re sharing chit chat over the water cooler at work
- When your friend is hurting and in some way let’s you know
- When your friend is facing a huge decision and turns to you
- When your friend shares about a personal dream or aspiration
- When your friend shares a painful or meaningful revelation that has never been shared before (big clue!)
- When you feel as if your friend has shared a piece of his or her soul with you
How do you Deep Sea Listen?
You stop your own agenda—your own need to relate to what the other person is saying. It suddenly becomes about the other person and what he or she needs. You ask questions that help the other person to identify what he or she is feeling. You refrain from advising or being ahead or above the other person and instead focus on being with. You avoid fixing the other person’s situation and simply embrace the other’s pain. You zero in on what might help this person feel heard, acknowledged and validated.
I have found in my own life, that very few people know how or when to Deep Sea Listen. But when you find someone who knows and does, the experience is nothing short of miraculous.
“Answering before listening is both stupid and rude.” Proverbs 18:13 (MSG)