Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 13

Responsible Listening (Part 2/3)

Responsible Listening, Part 2

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 13
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Responsible Listening (Part 2/3)

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How conflict and leadership intersect.

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Responsible Listening (Part 2/3)
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] When you see the word the phrase hearing impaired, what does that mean to you? My wife and daughter are both hearing impaired. They both wear hearing aids in both ears. There's an inherited genetic issue with their central nervous system in which they are hearing impaired. But there's another member of our family this listening impaired. And that's a whole different problem. My ears work fine, but it's the listening that's the problem. And part of the issue is that I just wrote an article, a blog article for the American Bible Society that I sent yesterday. But it was interesting that the way it the way it worked is that we do blogs on our website each each week. He does one week and I do the next week and so forth. But over the last year and a half or so, we've done quite a lot of these. And um, and so one of the ones that I did some time ago was, was about listening. And so the guy that called me and said, I'd like you to do this, this devotional that's going on all over the place. He said. He said, What can you do? I said, Well, I don't know, but why don't you go on our blog site and just take a look at the different stuff that we've done? And he said he said, Just just. I said, just pick one and I'll work on it. Within 5 minutes, he called me back and he said, I want the one. I'm listening. He said, That's the biggest problem for our leaders in the American Bible society and the thousands of churches that we serve because we leaders are trying to talk. We aren't trying to listen. And I said in this little article that I never took a course on listening.

[00:01:57] I never took a class on listening when I took my ordination vows. And there were four things that were preaching teach the word. There was administer the sacraments, there was pray, and there were shepherd the flock. Not one word about listening, but yet listening is the core of ministry. It's what is is the connector point, if you will, to everything that we deal with, for example, in the area of peacemaking. So it's a it's a very interesting area. And I am one I'm a recovering person who's been listening impaired for a long, long time. What affects our listening? There are a couple of things that that affect it. One is what we might call a selective interpretation. Pre-judge conversations. I assume that I already know what the other person is saying. You know, we we use filters. There's history that we bring our own history, our history with the other person. There's a selective interpretation that's happening all the time because it's like two ships passing in the night. Let me do an exercise with you is a simple exercise, and you may have seen this before, but I just want you to take a look at this. Remove six letters. Remove six letters. And what word do you get? Don't say it out loud if you know the answer. Raise your hand. Remove six letters. And what word do you get? You got. Don't say it. It's a common fruit. And the first statement is that's more than six letters that you removed. Well, when I said remove six letters, you probably interpreted the six letters as six of the letters. When I meant the words six letters as six latto press. This is really about interpreting what I said. And part of it, Sam, as we were talking, is, as you ask, is making sure that we understand the interpretation that the other person means.

[00:04:25] So selective interpretation is happening all the time. It's part of being human. But when it when it comes to conflict and those kinds of relationships, it's really, really critical because the stakes go even higher in this area of selective interpretation. Uh, it is. And we'll talk about what what barriers cause us not to interpret. Well, in just a moment. With the second one that we're. We talk about is, is not only selective interpretation, but selective retention. We hear many messages throughout the day, thousands of them. We see them or we hear them. Our our our our bodies and our our sensory sensory system is is bombarded each day. And all of those messages we make both conscious and unconscious decisions as to which ones are going to and which ones we're going to invest our energy. And as we do that, we retain some of what we're receiving and we discard the rest. That's the way it works. And while our process of retention may be sophisticated, it's certainly not necessarily systematic. And it it often makes no sense at all as to why we do it. I want you to listen to the following story. When I'm finished, I want to ask you a few questions to see if you've retained what I've read. Are you ready? Listen to the story. When I finished, I'll ask you a few questions to see if you have retained what I've read. Here goes. You're the bus driver for the city bus system. In a small city on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. Because the city is small, the bus system not only transports city people. But also people from the rural areas into the city. From as far away as ten kilometers. All the city bus drivers are given a certain section of the rural area and need to establish a bus route that runs in the most efficient manner to conserve gas.

[00:06:37] The people you pick up are located four miles north of the city. Three miles south of the city. Two miles east of the city. And one mile west of the city. Those are the facts. So let me ask you a question from the story. How old is the bus driver? If you know the answer, raise your hand. Well, maybe that was too tough. Let me ask you another question. What did the bus driver have for breakfast this morning? Do you know the answer to that question? Raise your hand. Let me read you parts of the story again and see if you can answer the questions. You are the bus driver. For the city bus system in a small city. Later in the story I read, the people you pick up are located four miles north of the city, so forth. Now, these are cute little examples. But what prevented you from being able to answer the question is that sometimes we make assumptions about what what's important to retain from any information that we're receiving. There were other details that obviously seem more important for you to retain, and you were working hard, I'm sure, to remember that stuff, because you assume that you would be tested about the information and would receive a C or D or an F. We receive messages from another person and we make decisions based on our interpretation of those messages or the part of the message that we think is important to retain. And most of the time when we're listening to communication, we don't go back to bother to check. That's the reality we don't go back to, to clarify, to seek clarification. Unfortunately, tragically, sometimes, particularly when it comes to conflict, many of the decisions that we choose to retain, many of the messages that we choose to retain are without much direct verification from the sender.

[00:08:59] That we even have the right message, that we have interpreted the message correctly, that we have retained the most important information. So there's a common listening pattern. A common listening pattern goes something like this. There's a stimulus. The person sends a message, something like, I don't like your idea. And our immediate response is, it's better than yours, right? I mean, that's pretty typical stuff, right? Or We've tried that before. Well, it'll work this time. That's kind of the way it goes in in these conversations. Does that sound familiar to you? Those kinds of those kinds of retorts to to that that send a message. A responsible listening message pattern would go something like this. I don't like your idea. Well, I'd like to know what it is that you don't like. About the idea. And then we can discuss the differences. What's the difference between those two? What's happening there? Is in the responsible listing pattern you're seeking to understand. We're seeking to understand. Let's go a little deeper. What what is going on here? That's that's critical. It was trying to stimulate dialog to try to stimulate the relationship, not just winning the battle like the previous great show. So it's a it's a less competitive, more collaborative approach to develop relationship. Okay. I mean, you're dodging a difference of opinion, but you're sort of drilling down what are the what are the key things here that were maybe you have different understandings about? Because the first one let's go back to the first one again. There is an enormous amount of interpretation going on. And that response isn't there. Uh, we're not to the retention issue because there's not much there to retain, But but interpretation is massive. And it may or may not be correct is is what we've got going on.

[00:11:23] It's going to a solution immediately, isn't it? Is trying is is trying to bring closure way too quickly. In both cases. So here's the responsible listening pattern. So let me ask you then. If somebody says, We've tried that before. What would be a responsible listening pattern response to that question, to that statement. Rather than it'll work this time. What what would be a responsible listening response? Right. What went wrong. Tell me about that. And. I'm sorry. Well, we're right. Yeah, sure. So these are very simple things. And by the way. For the last 20 years since I've been working on this in my own life, sometimes I feel really silly. When I use some of these techniques. I think certainly people are going to find me out. I mean, this is just so stupid to do this stuff. But you know what? People are so seldom really listened to. They don't care. They just want to be listened to. And you can get away with the simplest of techniques if you really are genuinely wanting to listen. That's what I found. And and that's just my own. That's my own experience. So this is not complicated, but it does take concentration and intentionality, particularly people like me that have been trying to speak more than to listen both. I think males have a little bit more difficulty with this and females, but that's just sad. Is this following up? You know, they're still with a a clarify. It's a clarifying question. Absolutely. Yeah. And drilling down long enough until you've proven that what they tried before, that you know what they tried before and why it didn't work. So it's again, it's it's proving that I've heard what you said, your total message, because a lot there's a lot in that little word that.

[00:13:37] We've tried that before. And it it may take an hour to unpack that one for word sentence is the reality. If we're in a conflict situation and by the way, when emotions go up, it's tougher to listen. And and I'm going to talk about some barriers, but that's a big one. Let me go on here. There's so much that I could say about this. As I said, this was a long process of learning for me. And and but Liz, being listened to is so close to being love that most people can't tell the difference. And that's why people will let you get away with even the most elementary of techniques if you're sincere about it, because they really do want to be listened to. Listening builds trust like nothing else. If we truly are good listeners.


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