Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Listening Life * Book Open House #2

Hey Friends ~

Grab your dog-eared, underlined, highlighted copy of Adam McHugh's The Listening Life: Embracing Attentiveness in a World of Distraction and let's get this conversation going!

It looks like we're all in very good company.  Adam's hit a raw nerve that's begging to be healed.  Each Thursday for five weeks, I'll be putting two quotes on the table for discussion.  Even if you're not reading the book, the dialogue is absolutely open to you, too.

A big welcome to Adam's friends who've arrived here via FB and Twitter.  Whether you jump right on into the conversation or sit quietly on the sidelines and just hang out, I'm glad you found us.

Meanwhile, commenters have been brave enough to admit ...

As She-Who-Finishes-Her-Husband's-Sentences, 
I can always use a refresher.

Sounds like a perfect read for me!

I know I need help listening....

Definitely something I struggle with.

I'm looking forward to this new adventure of going deeper.

I hope I get it some day.

My internal chatter is definitely disruptive.

It was easier overseas to take the time to listen 
since we had few electronic distractions.

Definitely an area I need to work on!

At work, this is an area of ongoing frustration.

Telling myself to shut up rather than spouting off words of advice.

I'm ready to plunge in with new vigor.

Having the last word, or the first word, 
or all the words in between 
is not all that it's cracked up to be.

Listening is very definitely difficult and tiring.

I'm looking forward to growing in this area!

I can so identify with this.

Better listening skills is one way I want to grow this year.

Let's talk about ...

'But somewhere along the way we start to violate the natural order of things.  Speaking our minds and asserting ourselves take priority over listening.  We interrupt someone else because we are convinced we already know what he or she is going to say.  We begin to take up more space than we allow for others.  We consider ourselves experts on topics without anything more to learn.  We tell God what to give rather than asking what God wants to give.  We participate by speaking and sharing, and we assert our identities by taking verbal stands.  We shout our messages from the rooftops without knowing who is listening and what they need.  We view others as projects rather than people with unique stories to be heard.  We consider our great Christian task to be preaching, rather than assuming the listening posture of a servant.  We speak volumes, but we listen in snippets.'

Chapter 1 - The Listening Life
'Loneliness drives us to talk about ourselves to excess and to turn conversations toward ourselves.  It makes us grasp on to others, thinking their role is to meet our needs, and it shrinks the space we have in our souls for welcoming others in.  That loneliness would keep us from listening, and others from listening to us, is a tragedy, because being listened to is one of the great assurances in this universe that we are not alone.'

please share




  1. Listening is difficult. It is hearing, thinking, analysing, and deciding how to react all in one. Very tricky if one cannot multi-task.

    I used to run management classes in listening skills.

    Adam and Eve listened to the snake; and look at the result of their listening. Personally, if I were naked and saw a snake I would cover up my bits in case he took a bite. If he started talking I would probably poop myself rather than engage in a conversation with him.

    God bless.

    1. I'm thinking that listening requires us to release our agendas and opinions. And that, in and of itself, is a difficult choice.

      As far as the snake? I'd like to think I would have taken off fast in the other direction. But sadly, our sinful nature being what it is, I fear what my choice might have been.

  2. I have learned the hard way to inspect my reasons for why I do things. Do I have a servant's heart and want to listen so I can understand what the person is going through and then ask God to speak through me to meet those needs? Or do I have my personal agenda to share what "I" think is the most important thing that they need to hear. Too many times it is the second way.

    1. Or do we want to feel important or smart or needed or or or ...

      I love your willingness to examine why you do what you do. Sure sounds healthy and wise to me, Mah.

      Good introspection.

  3. I just had a phone conversation about an hour ago with a friend who interrupts all the time. She has told me several times how lonely she is because her husband does not talk to her. I think he has tried but finally gave up. If she is in a group of ladies and someone ask me or anyone of us a question as soon as you start to answer she will come in with what she thinks. I am always aware when I am with her to continue to work on being a good listener. I know I am going to have to bring this up soon because I don't want to shy away from her as others have. Of course I need prayer to speak in love. Great thoughts...

    1. Oh, those dear ones are so emotionally draining, aren't they. Often filled with pain or loneliness or a lack of self-worth or in great need of affirmation, they drain us dry with every conversation. And people want to flee to the hills when they see someone so needy coming through the door.

      Betty, it sounds like you're a good friend and care a great deal about her to take up the hard task of 'speaking the truth in love.' I'm praying for you even as we speak.

      Bless you for loving and listening well ...

  4. The line that grabbed me in the Introduction and convicted me is - "We tell God what to give rather than asking what God wants to give." In chapter 1, I loved how he described listening as an act of the will, centering not only our ears but also our mind , heart and posture on someone or something other than ourselves. Thank you for leading us in this study, Linda. :) As I put some things to practice, I realize I am not as good a listener as I thought. :( Love and hugs to you!

    1. Oh yes, you're so right, Trudy! This isn't just about making sure our ears are working. What's required of us is an attitude of the heart, a servant spirit, where we've been so filled by our relationship with Christ that we have much to offer ...

      Which often can come very very quietly and simply.

  5. Wow, Linda, those quotes are so good. "...assuming the listening posture of a servant." Beautiful. I can see this is a book I must read for the engaging writing alone, much less for the many things I could learn from it. I've put it on my summer reading list. Can't wait to sit on the porch and read through it. I'll look forward to the other quotes from you until then. Thanks for sharing, friend. xoxo

    1. Yes, please do add to your summer reading stack, Brenda! A wonderful book to read especially when all is still and quiet. I'm finding my best moments late in the evening when all around me is unplugged or asleep.

  6. This book is already "speaking" to me. Thinking of listening as obedience blows my mind. I love thinking that listening involves my whole body and not just my ears. That helps me adjust my methods! And then the part about how we try to gain power with words, but listening gives power away. Whew! And we are only through the first chapter!

    1. Listening as obedience is a huge gamechanger isn't it. As Christians, we strive toward being obedient to what God tells us in His Word.

      If we're not listening with open hearts to what He's telling us, our obedience is probably not going to be stellar, is it ...

      Glad this book is speaking to you, Sarah ...

  7. One thing that struck me as I read the intro and first chapter was the fact that the word "listen" actually has its Latin, Greek and Hebrew root in the word "obey." Wow! Yes, God wants us to obey Him, knowing He will steer us in the right direction if we listen to Him (without interrupting, of course!). And I love the idea that being an attentive listener is akin to having the heart of a servant. Perfect imagery!
    Blessings, Linda!

    1. You and Sarah must have been talking together! {See comment above.}

      Without interrupting is a hard one for us, isn't it. Our prayer lives are often filled with our words, with little precious, focused time in listening to His responses to our heart cries.

      Kinda makes me realize why so many of us say that God hasn't answered our prayers. Mmm ... maybe He has and we just weren't paying attention.

      Or giving Him praise for His faithfulness.

  8. Great excerpts, Linda.
    As I read, I realized that a lot of my "jump to fill in the blank" behavior sprouts from a fear of silence, a dread of the awkward pause in a conversation.
    And this is ridiculous, because I also know that God uses those empty spaces to draw out the unsaid, and I've sat in groups before and listened to my extroverted friends completely hog-tie (monopolize is not a strong enough word!) a conversation, changing the Roman Numeral of the conversation's outline before a topic had been talked out, and I imagine they are operating out of the same fear of the pause.
    Lots to think about this week!

    1. Fear of silence. And fear of THE PAUSE. Yes, yes! You've named this well, Michele.

      Fascinating ... and kind of sad. I've learned along the way that people REALLY tend to open up when we sit quietly and stop filling in the blanks with our yammering. Keeping still can offer true and lasting healing experiences, for sure.

      Sigh, yes, we've all been in groups where early on the extroverts have taken up all the space and leave the rest of us wondering why we're there, feeling like we don't want to intrude into the conversation. Even feeling less than.

      Let's hear it for wise and savvy leaders who are willing to do the hard work to keep the conversation flowing, alive, and well.

      So glad you're here, friend.

  9. Linda, what great excerpts! As I read them, I kept thinking about how my husband hates when I finish his sentences. As I've thought about this, I've come to realize that my desire do finish his sentences is, too often, an urging to move the conversation along. My dear man speaks deliberately, choosing his words with care.

    I've learned from him that listening to others validates them. And, it encourages connection. Isn't that what most of us want?

    I'm sorry for coming so late to the party. I hope to hear more from this book!

    1. You're right on time, carrying wisdom in your hand, Jeanne.

      And yes, yes, yes, we're all looking for validation. It's too bad that we shoot ourselves in the foot time after time by searching for it in ways that are distinctly unhelpful.

      I appreciate your insights today!

  10. I tried to comment earlier but it must have gone into cyberspace! Thank you, Linda, for leading us to this book. I know I have much to learn (and practice!) about listening. I'm already halfway through and so much is speaking to me: Listen and Obey having the same root, "Listening makes us into disciples - those who learn, who follow and who submit to the Lord. And listening also makes us into servants" Wow! Aren't those our primary goals - disciples and servants?

    Betty's comment connected with thoughts I had as I was reading. Everyone deserves to be listened to, really listened to. And yet, there are those who seem to spend all their words rehearsing their hurts, sufferings, and "victimhood". I'm not sure how to listen to them in a valuable, authentic way without trying to refocus their perspective. Is that my "fix-it" nature coming through?

    1. Ohhh ... so glad you're here! I think this is my college roommate, right? Anyway, thanks for taking the time to write again after your first thoughts disappeared into thin air.

      * sigh *

      Yes, that unexpected link between listening and obeying is hitting home for readers. That was a surprise, for sure, but on second thought kind of makes sense.

      And yes, {smile} most of us love to fix / rescue / advise others. It usually comes from a heart of compassion but it does go off-kilter rather quickly and often ends up backfiring in an assortment of ways. I'm guessing that those who 'spend all their words rehearsing their hurts ...' have found it somehow works for them, not realizing how it pushes people away.

      I love to have conversations with people and allow them to get to the point where we can turn a corner and say yes, all these things are true about where you are. Now what?

      Usually that crossroads comes after the person feels well heard and her feelings validated. And that can take months.

      Sure would love to talk about this in person. When we get together, we'll be sure to bring our books, ok?


  11. My husband and I are reading this book together which is good so I have someone to talk about it with in person. Sometimes not so good, when he gently reminds me I might need to reread chapter one. :) Changing listening habits has been an uphill battle for me. I feel like I am making slow slow progress but also have a long way to go.

    1. I love that you and your man are sharing this book together. I'm with you, TJ ... it's so helpful to sit and talk this through in person!

      I hope he'll be listening to you whisper gently in his ear, too ...


  12. It's so good to read these chapters again! So many great insights- like the way listening can be seen as a background activity to whatever we're doing (listening to music on headphones) and that can actually close us to the outside world by being a barrier against speaking to people. I liked the comparison with going to a concert to listen to an orchestra, where the listening is the main focus. It would make such a difference to do more of that kind of listening in everyday life.

    1. I know, I know! I love re-reading a treasured book. The best parts come back with fresh impact, leaving us fuller and more sated than before.

      Absolutely agreed, Lesley!