Are you listening to the other person or thinking about what you will say next? Are you actively listening to what the person is saying so that you are sure you are getting it? Are you more interested in what you have to say than what they are telling you? This is a problem! Especially if there is a conflict since you won’t really get their side of the story!
If we start with the advice we first get from today’s reading, we hear:
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
–from James 1
If we consider the priority order of this instruction we see that first we need to hear what the person is saying — active listening — I remember when I took calls in tech support this was a very important skill. You are acknowledging what they are saying and if you don’t understand something you get clarification. You aren’t challenging or arguing, you are just working to make sure they know you are hearing them and making sure you know what the actual problem or reason for their being upset, frustrated, or angry. It’s not always easy, but it is the right thing to do when in the middle of a situation! Rather than fighting each other, put the target on the actual problem! We have two ears and 1 mouth so let’s try to listen twice as much as we speak! Our reading tells us to be slow to speak, let’s make sure we don’t overreact or blow things out of proportions but rather gather the information necessary to move forward! Getting angry won’t reduce the conflict, it will in most cases cause it to escalate! And that doesn’t do either of you any good. Our reading not only tells us priority of actions, it also gives us instructions on how to get there by getting rid of the junk that gets in the way! We need to get rid of the intention or desire to do evil! We need to get rid of immoral behavior! We need to be humble! We need to humbly receive the Word of God! We need to humbly accept the Word of God placed in us! It can be the thing that saves our soul. It will help us walk in alignment with God! It can direct us into a relationship with Jesus! And Jesus is the way, the truth, and the light — Romans puts it this way “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” and Acts puts it this way “believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved“. We need to be able to listen to what God is saying in and through the situation! We need to be able to hear what the heart of the other person is also saying!
let’s be quick to listen,
slow to speak,
even slower to get angry!
Today’s devotional (Conflict At Work day 3) also speaks about this verse. This is what they have to say on the subject…
Be Quick to Listen
Christians need to listen well, both to people and to God. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). You listen, not as a technique to influence others, but as a way to let God’s word “rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness” (James 1:21). Listening well to others removes our anger and arrogance. When others speak words that we do not welcome—words of disagreement, criticism or dismissal—it is easy to respond in anger, especially in high-pressure situations. But doing so usually makes our position worse and discredits our witness as Christ’s servants.
When approaching a co-worker about conflict, you must set aside your self-justification long enough to listen to what the other person has to say. This is very difficult! But it works. Your goal at first is not to come to agreement, but just to understand the other person’s point of view. Say something like, “I realize that this is coming between us, so I want to start by listening to how you see things.” Then listen without interrupting. Repeat back what the other person said without modifications or corrections. “I think you said…. Is that right?” You may have to try several times until you get it so the other person can respond, “Yes that is what I said.” Success!
Now ask the other person to listen to your perspective and repeat it back to you, just as you did for him or her. Repeat until the other person actually repeats what you said, without asking the person to agree with it.
Now you both understand the other person’s point of view. You may still disagree. Yet most of the time, the feeling of being heard and respected is so wonderful that both of you have a new energy and sense of working together. Now you can begin to find a solution to the conflict that you can both live with.
Watch this short video about being quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger.
Dear God, It is difficult to listen and not defend my own position. Help me approach conflict with meekness, humility and a heart that is willing to truly understand another’s perspective. Amen.
–from Conflict At Work (day 3)