Active Listening

One useful strategy is active listening. This requires careful attention to what the speaker is saying verbally and nonverbally. Once the speaker has finished, the listener rephrases what was said to receive verification or clarification of the message.

I used this for years while I was teaching without knowing there was an official name for it. Although I hear very well, I do not process the information well unless I am paying close attention. In my class, I had a standing rule that students had to get my attention before speaking to me. To do it any other way risked total lack of comprehension. Most students respected that rule, but there were those who still blurted out questions and comments while I was engaged in something else. Whenever that happened, I repeated back to the student exactly what I heard them say, which rarely had little to do with the actual comment.

Somehow, my brain misinterpreted comments like “I need to go to the restroom” as “I read alone in my bedroom.” By using active listening techniques, I received the corrected message and more than a few laughs when what I misheard involved elephants, turkeys, or other totally off-topic things.

I’m not teaching elementary these days, but I still use active listening. If someone is telling me something complex or if I’m receiving instructions verbally, I’ll repeat back what I understand. This way, I make sure that what the person said and what I heard amounts to the same thing.

Active Listening Steps:

  1. Listen the first time.
  2. If you didn’t hear what was said, kindly ask the speaker to repeat.
  3. Rephrase what you think you heard.
  4. Allow the speaker to correct you if what you heard was incorrect.

Active listening is a little like a checksum in a data transfer. If the numbers don’t match, something went wrong. Try again.

Matthew 13 and the 7 Letters, Part 4

“How do the Kingdom parables (Matthew 13) relate to the epistles from Christ to the Churches?”

Parable: The Leavened Bread

Church: Thyatira

  Being happy Gentiles, we don’t get the impact of this one.  I mean, what’s the big deal of a woman adding some leaven (think yeast and you’re not too far off) to bread?  That’s how you make bread, isn’t it?

Well, remember Jesus is talking to a Jewish audience.  In Mid-Eastern cultures, three measures of meal are considered a friendship offering when you have guests.  Leaven is a form of sin or corruption because it puffs up.

  What the woman is doing is offering her guests a corrupted dinner.  The Roman Catholic Church venerates Mary to the point of giving her near-godhood.  She’s considered the “co-Redemptrix” with Christ.  In other words, it’s not God alone who saves our miserable selves.  That was not the original plan.  There’s a prophecy about a virgin giving birth, but absolutely zippo about the mother of God interceding for humanity’s salvation.  God, in fact, is pretty emphatic about you talking to Him when you need something.

Disagree Agreeably

Unfortunately, in the modern world of social media, there has been a disturbing mis-translation. People often assume that “I disagree with you” is equivalent to “You are evil and must be destroyed.”

Many have lost the ability to disagree with someone without being a jerk about it. Social media is full of conversation threads and posts in which someone with a dissenting opinion is lambasted with threats, insults, and foul language.

What has happened to calm, rational discussion of differences? Seriously, does dropping a flurry of f-bombs and threats on the head of someone who disagrees with us convince anyone to change an opinion?

It really IS possible to be pals with someone you don’t lock steps with ideologically.


I have people on social media friends/followers lists on opposite sides of the political spectrum. I actually have legitimate (private) discussions with them about some of these differences without it turning into a barrage of expletives and vitriol. We’ve had these conversations privately so we don’t get snarky twerps butting in with their verbal tac nukes.

My science fiction and fantasy works are being published by 5 small presses. The most  overtly Christian of my works have been published by a small press run by a Wiccan lady and her husband. A third overtly religious work was printed by a press that has people from multiple religions and lifestyles involved. We all get along like civilized humans. I don’t shove my Bible up their noses. They don’t whack me upside the head for believing the content of my Bible.

(Extra bit of interesting trivia: The least overtly Christian of my works was published by a Christian press. The more blatantly Christian ones were rejected by Christian presses for being “too religious.” This amuses me).

We can be civil without being ideological twins. We can disagree without being disagreeable.

Matthew 13 and the 7 Letters, Part 3

“How do the Kingdom parables (Matthew 13) relate to the epistles from Christ to the Churches?”

Parable: The Mustard Seed

Church: Pergamos

A mustard seed grows into a huge tree that the birds can make homes in.

At the outset, it sounds like this one is saying that the Kingdom of God grows enormously large and people find safety there, but that’s not the message at all.

  Remember the birds from the first parable?  They’re the ministers of Satan here, too.  A mustard plant is this little yard-high shrubby thing, not a tree.  So this Church grows unnaturally large (Remember: narrow is the path and few are those who take it…), and corruption in the form of Satan’s ministers comes to take roost in the church.  That’s exactly what happened to the Church Married to the World.

The “Sympathy” Trap

Recently, a well-meaning (I assume. Trying to give him the benefit of doubt) person made a decision for me. He says he did it out of concern for my “condition.” The result was a “choice.” I could either step down from an activity I was doing and return to a lesser activity or I could continue in the activity “but with higher expectations.” The “choice” was mine to make, but the conversation made clear which option was correct.

Please note that at no time was an offer made to find out why I was physically unsteadier doing that activity. No effort was expended to teach, train, or develop the skill (“aggressive enthusiasm”) I was missing.

“For my own good,” I was dismissed from the activity.

Not to worry. I’ll land just fine.

Truly, though, when you’re dealing with people, don’t make their decisions unless they are incapable of doing so. If you see them struggling with something or not performing at the level they should, find out what’s going on. Ask what help is needed, if any.

Matthew 13 and the 7 Letters, Part 2

“How do the Kingdom parables (Matthew 13) relate to the epistles from Christ to the Churches?”

Parable: The Tares and the Wheat

Church: Smyrna

A sower plants a bunch of wheat, but an enemy (Satan) comes along and plants tares, which are an annoying weed.  The angels can’t sort it out until the end.

In other words, there is sin in the world, and there are people who do Satan’s work of making life really rough for the believers.  The Persecuted Church had it really rough

Conclusion Jumping

When learning to get along with someone else, we need to avoid two very common pastimes: conclusion-jumping and keyword-listening.

For example, I’m a white, conservative, Christian (Southern Baptist, at the moment), 40-something, Texan female. This does not mean I hate homosexuals, despise the poor, whack people upside the head with my Bible, try to drag people to a baptistery, go hunting, or own a horse. In fact, none of those things are true, but different people have jumped to each of those conclusions.

Listening for keywords and jumping to the conclusions are often done to save time in our busy day. Arriving at the conclusion that I must be a deadly shot with a pistol because I live in Texas spares the listener the time it would take to find out if I actually own one. The problem comes when misconceptions develop.

The only real barrier to truth is the assumption we already have it. If we think we already know what we need to know about someone, we’re not very likely to pay attention to what really is true. Instead of assuming something is true, take the time to get to know the person. You might be surprised.