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How NOT to Listen - One Habit that's Not Helping You

Written by Rebecca Okamoto on May 18, 2014

Be quick to listen and slow to speak.” James 1:19

I love talking to my brother, Joel. He is a brilliant theologian, thoughtful thinker and he often poses unanswerable questions. This week we were locked in a discussion about teaching, learning and the role of the instructor. I thought we were going back and forth pretty well.

Maybe not.

My brother has a habit of putting his hand up when he's trying to make a point, and this time it dawned on me, his hand was unusually animated.

I was frustrating him.

We weren't competing, we weren't disagreeing. It wasn't him. It was me.

I wasn't listening. I was leaping.

I missed the cues to dial it back, listen, reflect and absorb. I was leaping to conclusions. I am an experienced leader. I counsel, mentor, and teach all the time, yet I forgot a basic of leadership:


For insight on listening I turned to Pastor David Davis, a frequent Evoke contributor. Pastor Davis recently addressed jumping to conclusions in his weekly leadership series.

Surely you know the old line, “There’s a reason God gave you two ears but only one mouth.

Old lines get to be old lines because they are true. Listening well will enrich your effectiveness as a leader like few other things.

Conclusion jumping plagues all the professions. Our past experiences shape our assessment of new situations. All professionals jump to conclusions. Doctors do it. So do lawyers.

I saw a statistic in "Blink" that said doctors tend to jump to a conclusion about a diagnosis after only ninety seconds of listening.

90 seconds?!?

Sickness diagnosed. Course of treatment set. Listening done.

Over time professionals will and must make generalizations about people and their situations. But before you speak:


And give it more than a minute and a half.

How many of you are leaping when you should be listening?

Maybe it's time to ask how well you're doing.

And then listen to what's being said.

Looking for more leadership insight? Take a look at Don't Wish for Power; Wish for Influence

Are you interested in reading more insight from David Davis? Check out this post on priority setting and get advice on what NOT to do Selective Neglect.

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