Speaking and the Lost Art of Listening

Pastor A. W. Weckeman – July 2015


“A time…to keep silence, and a time to speak…” (Eccl.3:7)

The Bible has much to say about speaking and listening.

SPEAKING: “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” (Prov.25:11)

“A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!” (Prov.15:23) Right word, rightly spoken at right time.

“The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable: but the mouth of the wicked speaketh frowardness.” (Prov.10:32)

“Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? there is more hope of a fool than of him.” (Prov.29:20)

“…a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words.” (Eccl.5:3)

“A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” (Prov.29:11)

“He can never speak well who cannot hold his peace.”

“As a man grows older and wiser, he talks less and says more.”

“The words of a wise man’s mouth are gracious; but the lips of a fool will swallow up himself.” (Eccl.10:12)

“The words of wise men are heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools.” (Eccl. 9:17)

Silence yields wisdom and it is the “still small voice” that often speaks truth.

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Prov.17:27-28).

“Talking comes by nature; silence by understanding.”
The man who is secure in “the wisdom that is from above” (James 3:17) will not have a need to constantly speak, nor be driven by the natural desire to continually express himself. Learned receptivity to the “excellent spirit” has liberated him from the urge to impress; he doesn’t have to do all the talking…he is much more willing and able to listen. He’s too preoccupied with trying to listen (yield) to the Lord to be constantly speaking. He has learned the secret “of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” (1 Peter 3:4)

“Whoso keepeth his mouth and his tongue keepeth his soul from troubles.” (Prov.21:23)

LISTENING“Learn to listen and listen to learn.”

Learn to be a wise listener: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak…” (James 1:19).

In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin: but he that refraineth his lips is wise” (Prov.10:19).

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit. Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” (Prov.17:27-28).

Everyone wants to be heard, yet very few know how to listen. One of the most grating and difficult things to deal with is someone who loves to talk but doesn’t know how to listen.

“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Prov.18:13)

People tend to purposely avoid conversation with those who are poor listeners; few things are more obnoxious than a person who constantly commandeers the conversation. When someone goes on and on we listen with bored inattention, enduring until the end.

In order to hold a conversation, you need to know when to let go. Conversation is to be a give and take; consider the definition of “Dialogue” 1 talking together; conversation: 2 Interchange and discussion…mutual communication.

Learn to be patient and wait for the other person to finish speaking before you take your turn. Resist the urge or tendency to dominate the conversation. The truth is most people don’t truly listen…they just wait for the other person to finish so they can continue speaking. While the other person is speaking, instead of listening they are formulating their thoughts for the next opportunity to speak.

Ironically, I have found that the secret of being heard hinges upon hearing; simply learning to truly listen. If you want to be heard learn to be a good listener…listen intently. When people sense that you are truly listening to what they are saying, most of the time they will return the courtesy. In order to be effective, a conversation must be an orderly exchange…not a verbal wrestling match.

Truly understanding what needs to be said, is one of the most important rules of communicating.

To avoid being misunderstood communicate clearly, honestly and effectively; learn to listen carefully and intently…practice being a good listener.

Listen to discern the person’s feelings, not just words.

It not only matters what you say but more importantly what the other person understood you to say (or mean). “The true art of listening is to hear what was not said.”

People should say what they mean but don’t always know how to. Just as silence is more than the absence of sound, listening involves more than understanding words. Observe the non-verbal signals being sent out by the speaker. Make an effort to understand the emotional as well as the intellectual meaning of what is being said. Sometimes countenance speaks as loud as words; in order to truly hear learn to pay attention to body language and tone. Listen to the sound of people’s voices to fully understand what was meant, rather than merely which was spoken.

Listening to another’s heart
In the early years of my fire department career, one of the men in my company lost his wife to cancer, leaving behind a grief-stricken husband and three children. At the funeral, I wanted to offer some words of comfort to Jack but didn’t know what to say…words seemed so inadequate.

While standing in the back of the funeral parlor with a group of fellow fireman I noticed Bill, a member of our house, walk up to the front row and sat down next to Jack. Although I couldn’t see their faces there was obviously some conversation. After about fifteen minutes or so Bill put his arm around Jack and gave him a hug.

When Bill returned to the rear of the room I asked him what he said that had such a positive effect. I’ll never forget his answer… “I didn’t say much, I just listened.” “Listening only happens with an open heart and a closed mouth.” A conversation should be a two-way street but it’s important to know when to just listen; sometimes lending an ear says so much more than words. “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Listening is said to be the smallest measure of self-sacrifice. Christians need each other; together, we’re not so lonely. “Iron sharpeneth iron…”

Communing with the Lord. When we read God’s word He speaks to us…when we pray He listens to us.


More importantly than learning to listen to one another, is that we learn to listen to the Lord. “Be still and know that I am God…” (Ps.46:10). Before we can truly listen to one another we must first learn to listen to the Lord. “A word fitly spoken…” is the outcome of years of listening to God.

“And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.” (Isa.30:21).

If we, as followers of Christ, are to share real wisdom, it must come from the Lord; true wisdom is born out of a relationship with God.

“A quiet life is usually a fragrant life. If we speak less, what we speak will be more powerful. Talkativeness is a point of leakage in one’s spirituality.” Nee

Last Modified on August 11, 2023
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