Tedd Tripp on answering without listening

Posted on · Posted in Communication, Parenting

Answering without Listening
Tedd Tripp

I had a conversation with my son near bedtime. I said what I thought needed to be said; he listened politely. “Well,” I said, after finishing my speech, “I am glad we had a chance to talk.” I prayed with him and went to bed.

A few minutes later there was a knock at our bedroom door.

“Dad, are you guys still awake?”

“Yeah, come on in, what’s up?”

“Well, Dad, I just wanted to say that when you left my room you said, ‘I’m glad we had this chance to talk’ and I just wanted to say that I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh, I see, I had a good talk, you had a good listen, right?”

“Yeah, sort of.”

“If you had been given a chance to talk, what would you have said?”

“Oh, I don’t know, I just wanted to say that I didn’t say anything.”

What’s the subtext here? “If you really want to know, you’re going to have to work harder than that, Dad, I am not going to be that easy.”
Most of us think of communication as the ability to express our ideas. The finest art of communication is the ability to understand the other person. Proverbs speaks to this issue with great insight.

“A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions.” (Proverbs 18:2). I was a fool that night. I could have said everything I had to say in the context of asking question. I could have made him feel known and understood. But I was a fool. My only thought was what I had to say. I did not take the time to draw him out. If I had delighted in understanding, I could have spoken with greater clarity and insight.

Proverbs 18:13 is similar. “He who answers before listening– that is his folly and his shame.” How many times have I answered before listening? I could anticipate what my child had to say; I lacked the patience to allow him to say it. I answered without really listening.


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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.