Learning to Listen for the Sake of the Other

Learning to listen to another begins with understanding ourselves, which includes our motives, our baggage, our interpretations, and our own world-views.

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As the world turns and political divides deepen, Facebook posts become more polarizing, and people become more segregated, I’m struggling because I don’t see anyone listening to each other.

Have we forgotten how to listen?
Miriam Webster defines the word “listen” as “to hear something with thoughtful attention: give consideration.”

A quick look around and I’m pretty sure our society as a whole does not know how to “hear something with thoughtful attention.” We tend to respond with knee-jerk reactions through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, forgetting there is an actual human being on the other end of the feed.

When I think about what “giving something thoughtful attention” means, I think of sitting, pondering, asking questions, and engaging in a meaningful conversation with the other party. To listen is to understand what the other is trying to say in order to understand where they are coming from and how they came to that conclusion.

Learning to listen to another begins with understanding ourselves, which includes our motives, our baggage, our interpretations, and our own world-views. It is when we begin to uncover these within ourselves, we will be able to enter into a conversation ready to truly listen to what the other is saying for the sake of the other and engage in the conversation with thoughtful and meaningful questions.

I’m learning that not everyone wants to learn how to listen well. If I’m honest with myself, there are times I don’t want to listen well either because it’s hard and uncomfortable, time-consuming, and there are times where it can be quite irritating!

I am learning that listening well is really hard work. It is a life-long process and I’ve messed up countless times. I’ve done my fair share of injecting my own opinions, given plenty of unsolicited advice, and fallen flat on my face as I’ve failed time and time again to listen for the sake of the other.

I’m learning that listening for the sake of others is an art form that takes time, effort, practice, and grace. Although I am nowhere near where I’d like to be, I sure am thankful as I can look over the last year and see how much I’ve grown in this area!

Dear God, may I continue to learn to listen well for the sake of those around me. May I learn to give thoughtful attention to what the other party is saying, not just on the surface, but wholly seeing them as a human being who has their own background, world-view, and history. Help me to pause before I speak, take a deep breath before I react out of emotion, and settle in and give my full attention as I learn to listen for the sake of the other.


Written by Jennifer Denney

Featured Image By Cristina Gottardi


This is an updated edition of a post originally published on jenniedenney.com.

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