Learning to Listen

hear no evilIf I ever write an autobiography (which I probably won’t because my life just isn’t that interesting) I’m going to title it “Learning to Listen.” This short phrase really gets to the heart of my personal growth process and I really can’t overstate its importance. Letting go of my own wrong views, perhaps adopted without any particular evidence or investigation, and listening to and learning from others has been the single most important thing I’ve done. Of course it hasn’t been easy.

It seems to me that if you’re going to make changes in life you must have two capacities: 1) the ability to listen (and learn) and 2) the ability to act. Simply stated you must be able to figure out what to do, and then do it. It does sound simple and easy, yet how often have you heard, or perhaps even said yourself, “People don’t change.” And it does seem true, doesn’t it? Most people don’t change, or at least not very much. My theory suggests that they’re lacking either the ability to listen or the ability to act.

In my own case, it was listening that was missing. I seem to have been created with an above average drive to accomplish things, and I’ve got plenty of internal energy. Hardwired to be a “doer,” taking action has always been relatively easy for me. The question is, is it the right action? Without listening first, often it’s not. It’s probably easy for you to understand how I used to create a lot of my own problems by acting without listening.

Individuals who are wired differently and who are in different circumstances than myself may feel unable to take a new and beneficial action.   Some people seem to have both deficiencies, neither listening nor acting. As I try to help others make positive changes, I’m thinking about what leads people to be unable/unwilling to listen or to act. I admit this is an oversimplification, but take a look at the following 2×2 grid and see what you think.

Listening x Acting

Although this depiction is very simple, I think it captures something important and can help us to understand the issues that keep us stuck in undesirable habits or situations. What you think and what you do pretty much determine what your life is like. As discussed, my natural quadrant is #2 and I have to work to be in #1. With time it gets easier to stay there.

I’d appreciate your comments about this concept. Please give me your thoughts on the idea of listening and acting being the keys to change in general and on the 2×2 analysis grid. What’s good about it? Where does it fall short? Can you add any more descriptors in the various quadrants? What quadrant do you tend to most naturally live in? And most importantly, what are you doing about it?


  1. Dexter Simanton says:

    Pete, I like the idea of the grid. I would add “humble” and “open to ideas that didn’t originate with me” to quadrant 1. “Able to Change” may include those but I would flesh them out.
    I am mostly in #2. Our human flaws tend to move us there with even small amounts of success. This is where we need to die to self and let Jesus live in us. Without the power of God, starting in #2 will either keep a person there or move them to #4 when failures overcome the narcissism that our successes create in the “old” man.
    “Trust and obey, for there’s no other way…..” is the best way for me to attempt to stay out of that trap. Sometimes I am successful. Sometimes I get in the way of my own best interest. Thankfully, Grace abounds!

    • Peter Weiss says:

      Thank you Dexter and welcome to quadrant #2. I agree on the “humble” and open to new ideas descriptors for quadrant #1. I was thinking that another couple of terms which might fit into #2 are “bumbling idiot” or “bull in a china shop.” I also agree that it is the power of God that allows us to be emotionally well. As I see it, the freedom we have in Jesus leads to freedom from our egos and allows us to listen.