Tuning out the background noise of family life — from the dog barking in the yard to the kids bickering in the backseat — is a skill most parents practice from time to time. Some days it takes patience, focus and a few deep breaths to keep the racket from rattling you.
The effort it takes to tune out, experts say, is similar to the concentration needed for the exact opposite: to tune in and become better listeners. Skilled listeners don't just hear words and nod their heads. Instead, they focus on listening with a generous ear and a goal of understanding.
"Listening to others, inside and outside the family, is part of our calling as disciples of Christ," said Judith Simonson, the ELCA's assistant director for ministries in chaplaincy, pastoral counseling and clinical education. "Listening is hard work that requires much self-discipline and time, but we have the satisfaction of knowing that we sit in Jesus' place as we listen to one another in love."
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