Listening with love has a richness of dimensions that is mostly unappreciated, but which adds greatly to our communications skills. Our minds think and work about four times faster than typical speech speed. We can think at about 500 words per minute, and typical speech speed is about 125 to 150 words per minute.
So, there is a great tendency to be thinking about other things as a person speaks to us – like planning our day, what movies we would like to see, and unrelated activities. Or, we may be thinking about how we are going to respond – in argument, refutation, or adding something from our assumed superior intelligence.
When we listen with love, we make eye contact and with affirmative body language, treat every word as precious because it comes from them, and they can feel and sense that we value everything they say. We think of all the positive implications and ramifications of what they are saying. We think about their paradigm and why they are saying what they are saying, so that we can have full empathy to the degree that is possible. “Walk in their moccasins.” as the famous Indian saying goes. They will sense and feel this spirit of listening with love, and it will bring out the best in them. It will greatly help to fill the conversation with light and love, because when we listen with love, we listen not only to the words, but to their feelings and to their hearts and desires.
Listening to the “still small voice” of the Lord is done in the quiet of our minds and hearts – not in the midst of noise and business, as the world brings upon us. When we listen with love, we can use that same Spirit of the Lord to understand first how much the Lord loves them. As well we can ask for the spirit of discernment as we categorize what is being shared and then think on the profound ramifications and implications of what we are hearing and feeling as it comes from their minds and hearts. Epictetus, an ancient Greek philosopher, said, “Nature gave us one tongue and two ears so we could hear twice as much as we speak.”
The following are listening skills that we can directly work on:
1) Ask questions for clarification and with sincere intent to understand the person’s feelings and the depth of their thoughts and ideas.
2) Be constantly aware that your paradigm is different from theirs, and, to the best you can, move your thoughts to understand their paradigm. Otherwise, your paradigm may be blocking your ability to listen with accuracy to what they are sharing.
3) Listen without trying to formulate a response. to the speaker. Try to hear everything that is being said, listen to the entire message — and then respond with love in your heart.
4) Listen with your whole being – with empathy. True empathy is the understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either their past, present, or anticipated future. Learn to listen for: What’s not being said? What’s in the way? What’s missing? What are their needs? What is most important to them, and what are their priorities?
5) Observe their body language; that carries about 85% of the information they are wanting to communicate. Here, one can learn to feel heart-to-heart that which is being communicated.
6) Do your part to provide an environment for listening. Avoid or remove distractions. If you don’t have control of the environment, suggest that you converse elsewhere or later when you can better be able to hear what they desire to share with you. They will feel your love in this suggestion.
 From Robert Burns’ poem called Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge written in 1784.
 C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed, p 43.
The following links are also excellent resources: