Christine Joy Sturton was born in Torquay, Devon, England. Joy earned a sociology degree from the University of Washington, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. While there, she met her future husband and became Mrs. Jim Zorn. Over the next eight years, they were blessed with four children — three daughters and a son.
Jim spent eleven years playing professional football, and has coached football for the past thirty years. Joy has spent most every fall sitting in stadiums all over the country cheering on Jim and the team for which he was playing or coaching. Joy is thrilled that she and Jim are back in the Seattle area living close to their four children, three son-in-laws, one daughter-in-law, and seven delightful grandchildren!
Joy deeply senses God’s call to cheer on her children, grandchildren, and many women with whom she counts it a privilege to walk alongside in life and if — they’re willing — up steep and exhilarating hiking trails in the Cascade Mountains!
THREE STEPS TO MASTERFUL LISTENING
“When was the last time you listened to someone? Really listened, without thinking about what you wanted to say next, glancing down at your phone or jumping in to offer your opinion? And when was the last time someone really listened to you? Was so attentive to what you were saying and whose response was so spot on that you felt truly understood?”
This opening paragraph in a New York Times 2020 opinion piece by Kate Murphy caught my attention. It caused me to pause and evaluate: how well do I listen?
Thousands of years before the opinion piece, the Biblical writer, James, was already urging the early Christians: “Listen, open your ears, harness your desire to speak, and don’t get worked up into a rage so easily my brothers and sisters.“ (James 1:19 MSG)
There is not a more relevant message for us today in our highly charged culture.
If we’re honest, most of us are guilty of not listening well to one another. Especially to those with different viewpoints than ours. We don’t do a great job of harnessing our desire to speak, opting for interrupting or talking over others instead. We’re left in a rage, blaming a different viewpoint instead of evaluating how well we listen.
It is so much harder to listen than to speak. There isn’t a demand for excellence in listening. A quick Google search lands a number of courses in Public Speaking, but absolutely none on the topic of “Public Listening”.
Good listening is a skill, and like any skill, it needs practice. Unfortunately, we overestimate how well we listen, but the good news is listening can be learned and improved with practice over time.
Going On a Listening Quest
Begin your listening quest by asking your spouse, co-worker, child, or honest friend to rate you on a scale from 1-10 (1 being a terrible listener, 10 being excellent listener). With their score, ask them for a recommendation on how you could listen better. You see, we have bad habits, and at times we’re blind to them. Maybe you check your phone or smart watch too often, mentally checking out of the conversation at each glance. You might be skilled at turning every conversation back to yourself, never entering into the experience of the other. Solving problems and giving easy answers might feel good, but might shut down a conversation prematurely.
There are three aspects of listening we can always work on:
- Eliminate distractions. Put down your phone, silence notifications and forget multitasking in order to make sustained eye contact. If you’re too busy for the conversation, humbly reschedule!
- Be curious. Slowly cultivate questions by listening to learn & understand. By shifting your posture to the goal of understanding– judgment, solutions, and readying a reply will fall away.
- Close your mouth. A simple way to ensure the conversation doesn’t circle back to you is to physically keep your mouth shut. If it’s closed, you can’t interrupt or interject your own story. Only open your mouth to ask a clarifying question.
I’m convinced if our listening skills improved, we would have fewer arguments and less anger. Those around us would feel safe to share their thoughts and ideas and by taking time to listen, we’d learn to better understand, appreciate, and value those around us. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’” (Matt 22:37-39 MSG)
Love has everything to do with listening. According to author and theologian David Augsburger PhD, “Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person it is indistinguishable.”
In other words, to love well is to listen well.
Listening well can change our world for the better. Even though I greatly admire those who speak with the eloquence of men and of angels, I’m setting my heart on learning to listen well — to God and to my fellow travelers — knowing it will reflect how well I love.
Some more images from Joy of her loving well and listening well:
Hiking to Camp Muir with daughter, Dani Cortez
With granddaughter, Hollis Mitchell
At Camp Muir: Isaac, Kristen, me, Dani, David, & Darin
From Poo Poo Point
Dani and me at Camp Muir