By Les Morgan, D. Min.

A foreign Ambassador attended a special dinner in Washington, D.C. His English was very poor.  The senator seated next to him struck up a conversation. He inquired about the ambassador’s family. Do you have any children? Trying to explain that his wife could not bear children he said, “No, we don’t have any children, my wife is impregnable.” Sensing he had chosen the wrong word he quickly responded, “What I mean is my wife is inconceivable.” The senator looked even more puzzled. “What I meant to say is that my wife is unbearable!”

Our success in life, relationships, career, business and ministry is largely determined by how well we communicate. Communication comes from the Latin meaning “to share.” It is a dynamic process of sharing between two or more people involving talking, listening and understanding.  Communication is complicated. It is both verbal and nonverbal. The message of what we say plus the meaning we intend plus the mood by which we say it often complicates communication.  Confusion and conflict arise when we experience communication breakdown.

The first step in good communication is, “be quick to listen” (James 1:19). My mother used to tell me that God gave me two ears and one mouth so I should spend twice as much time listening as I did speaking. “So, listen up!” she would say.

Our ears have 3,500 tiny hair cells and 25,000 sound receptor cells that distinguish 300,000 tones. Every sound has its own number of vibrations that activate the eardrum. For example, the sound that comes from middle C on a piano is molecules oscillating 256 times per second.  We can distinguish between 20 and 20,000 vibrations. That’s why we can hear the difference between buzzing, a word and a musical note and the blowing of the wind.

The challenge, “be quick to listen,” means to make listening a greater priority than talking.  Research shows that we only listen with 25 percent efficiency. Listening is an act of love that aims to understand others.  The goal of listening is to accurately understand their message, meaning and mood.

The goal is not to change people or to persuade them or to manipulate them. We listen to understand the person, their perspective and their passions. Listen to what people feel, not to what they say.  Trust what they say as true for them. Don’t read into what they are saying and project onto them preconceived notions or stereotypes.

We learn about each other when we listen, so listen up!