Listening and Speaking – the Quick and Slow x Two

The Skills of Listening and Speaking

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angrey. James 1:19 (NLT)
Are You Listening?

Listening before we speak is often a difficult task and one that I can struggle with. It is not the speaking that I have so much issue with, it is the listening part of the communication process that I am not as in tuned to as I should be. My excuses regarding my difficulty in listening vary and they are just that, excuses. However if I had to justify them I would fall back to our very driven task-oriented culture we live in. The instantly demanding world and expectations of on-demand results prompts me to not always be as close of a listening participant that I should be. I am often forming my response while the speaker is still speaking so whatever discussion is taking place can move forward to the next step or event. I have things to do and a list that needs to be checked off. We must keep moving forward, right? Well maybe not. Perhaps we have it all wrong.

We seem to have moved to a society that treasures not the people who make it up but the amount of “things” we can carry out in a given period-of-time. We have lost sight of what is really important, people and pushed meaningless tasks to the forethought all in the name of helping people. The idea of giving an opinion to help someone but not really listening to what they are saying is a paradox in itself. The concept of difficulty in listening however is apparently not a new problem that plagues only our current society as I recently heard a story about a former president of the United States making the same complaint close to eighty years ago before the times of instant anything.

Franklin D. Roosevelt who served the United States as President from 1933 – 1945 felt people had poor listening skills also. F.D.R. often had to endure long receiving lines at the White House. According to the story he complained that no one really paid any attention to what anyone said, in other words their listening skills were poor. He decided to try an experiment during a reception event at the White House one day to test his theory on people’s listening skills. As each person passed down the line and shook his hand he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not until the end of the line, while upon greeting the ambassador from Bolivia that his words were actually listened to. The ambassador didn’t miss a beat in conversation as he leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming”. This funny story illustrates just how important listening really is.

Listening is a skill that when not used properly can create mass communication problems that often results into trouble especially if we are trying to speak before we listen. If we are not listening closely to what people are saying the end results can be such that total miscommunication occurs. When we are not listening closely we may form an opinion that is not justified, causing us to speak without thinking through our words which often results in an emotional burst of anger for ourselves or the original speaker. Listening is such an issue in the business world, which depends on effective communication for success that they have now coined the term as “active listening”.

There are a series of questions that a leader or anyone who wants to determine if they have good leadership and listening skills can sort through to help them rethink their listening skills as listed by Leadership, Vol. 1, No. 4, p99.

How good a listener are you?

1. Since you think about four times faster than a person usually talks, do you use this time to think about other things while you’re keeping track of the conversation?

2. Do you listen primarily for facts rather than ideas when someone is speaking?

3. Do you avoid listening to things you feel will be too difficult to understand?

4. Can you tell from a person’s appearance and delivery that there won’t be anything worthwhile said?

5. When someone is talking to you do you appear to be paying attention when you’re not?

6. Do certain words and phrases prejudice you so you cannot listen objectively?

7. When listening, are you distracted by outside sights and sounds?

I laughed to myself as I read through this list as I am deficient in almost half of them. I am not a person much for discussion as I really am a person of action and so often I have a personal agenda a mile long and if the speaker is not on my agenda, well I might be guilty of number five while doing number one. There is also one that is not spelled out on the list but that goes along with number one and that is forming a response before the speaker finishes. This can create a multitude of issues as well and is the primary cause of most people’s communication issues today.

If we search on the internet for active listening and effective communication skills no less than 16 million results promise to lead you to the way of correct listening skills for effective communication. But we do not need to sort through 16 million results or even seven questions because the Bible tells us exactly what we need to do in one simple verse to achieve active listening, effective speaking, and avoiding miscommunication. That is this week’s focus verse, James 1:19;

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. (NLT)

The Skill of Quick and Slow

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angrey. James 1:19 (NLT)
Don’t Reverse Your Adjectives!

Effective communication requires the Q and S, the quick and slow. So how can an oxymoron lead us to more effective communication and result in better relationships? It is all about how you use the adjective with the verb. All too often we reverse the process and this is where the problems come in. Many times we are quick to speak and too slow on listening and this can cause quick anger.    

The idea of poor listening skills is obviously not a new thing among the human race. It apparently stands the test of time as the Bible has warned us about our mouths for thousands of years. The book of Proverbs is full of such teachings warning us that talking too much will lead to sin and that we are better off to keep our mouth closed. (Proverbs 10:19) It even goes as far to tell us that if we speak before we think or listen that even a fool would have more hope for life than us. (Proverbs 29:20) If we will simply follow the teachings of James in this one three-step verse we will be able to communicate more effectively.

When we are listening quickly and speaking slowly we are not only telling people but showing them that they are important and what they have to say is important too. When we are listening with quickness we are less likely to speak with quickness. Instead we will be able to give ourselves time to think carefully as we will be weighing the current speaker’s words thoughtfully and we will speak slowly. This is effective communication and communication that is less likely to create anger among either communicator.

I am working on my listening skills and actively trying to be a quick listener and a much slower speaker. The older I become the more I realize that it is people and our relationships to people who are the most important things in the world we have and these things must be given the greatest value that we can. We do not need to research thirty-two million ways to communicate effectively with people. We just need to remember one short verse. We can even give it a current day acronym, Q.L.Sx2., Quick Listening Slow Speech.

This week let us all work on our Q.L.Sx2. as James has instructed us and see if we can communicate more effectively with the most important things on this earth…people.

Have a great week being quick and slow or as someone in Sunday School said this morning during our lesson; God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, we should listen twice as much as we speak.

Love in Christ,


Post Script;

I hope you find my images of the little birds amusing. As I began to put my thoughts together for this week’s focus verse I laughed as I saw these birds, which I photographed off  the coast of South Carolina. I thought they really appear to be communicating to one another. I am not sure however that they are using the Q.L.Sx2. method as in each image one of the birds looks really angry. I am thinking that one of them is not quick listening or slow speaking.

What are Your Thoughts on Quick Listening and Slow Speaking? Join Us in Discussion…

How are your communication skills? Do you find yourself effectively communicating to people by using both quick listening and slow speaking? Do you often stick your foot in your mouth because you were not listening carefully? Are you good to speak slowly after giving long thought to what you are asked or upon giving your opinion to others? Let us know your successes or weaknesses of communication so we can all encourage one another. Join us on these topics or other related topics on your viewpoint of listening.

How God is working through your life?