If you look at this painting by one of my daughters you would be forgiven for not knowing what it was about. How you view this painting depends upon – your imagination, the experiences that you bring to it, your knowledge of my daughter and the subjects of her work as well as what you would like these images to represent.
Listening is a little bit the same. Too often I have leapt to the wrong conclusions about what someone has said or implied because I haven’t stopped to think about the context, the person or even heard the whole conversation. Or … I have dwelt too long on what has been said and read meaning into it that was never there. Sometimes I have reacted to the tone of their voice or what I thought was the tone of their voice. Then, after embarrassing myself with an over-reaction I have had to eat humble pie and beg for forgiveness.
A very wise man called James once said,
Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry (NIV) James 1:19
At least when I am talking to parents in the Parent group that I help to run, I am “quick” or keen to listen. If I don’t understand what they are saying we go to great lengths to find the right words, mime or find someone to translate so that we can communicate better. We are all at pains to understand one another and when there are misunderstandings, we laugh and are forgiving of each other. Maybe I should be this careful to hear with my English speaking friends as well.
As a teacher, I must be quick to listen and slow to speak. There have been too many times when I have acted on what I thought was said and done and found out later that I was wrong. I hate injustice … and I feel sick at heart when I am the cause of it.
On the other hand, how frustrating is it when a comment, said without any hidden meaning or malice, is taken the wrong way? Do you also have people in your lives who are looking to be offended? I am not very good at walking on eggshells – it’s hard to tiptoe when you have to keep changing the foot that you put in your mouth.
My mission this week is to speak less and listen more. Oh, and if you are still wondering about the painting I will tell you something about my daughter. She likes to paint horses.