The very first line that St. Benedict wrote in his rule for monastics is “listen.” All of the literature on prayer instructs us that half of prayer is listening. When the priest faces the people before the reading of the Holy Gospel he bids them, “Let us listen to the Holy Gospel.”
But what about listening in our personal relationships or ministry? How are we truly to listen to people?
1. Look at the person who is talking. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears; keep looking as long as they are talking. Anybody worth listening to is worth looking at.
2. Lean toward the speaker and listen intently. Appear as if you don’t want to miss a single word. There is a tendency to lean toward the interesting talker and away from the not-so-interesting ones.
3. Ask Questions. This lets the person who is talking know you are listening. Asking questions is a high form of flattery. Questions can be simple as: What happened then? Then what did you do?
4. Stick to the speaker’s subject and don’t interrupt. Don’t change subjects on a person until they are finished, no matter how anxious you are to get started on a new one.
5. Use the speaker’s words – “you” and “your.” If you use “I, me, my, mine” you are switching the focus from the speaker to yourself. That is talking, not listening.
“These five rules are nothing more than courtesy. Never will courtesy pay off for you so much as it will in listening.”