In Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey declared that "the single most important principle" in interpersonal relations is to seek first to understand, then to be understood. Most of us listen to the person speaking not to understand that person but to form a reply. We either are speaking or preparing to speak.

Covey says, "We're usually listening at one of four levels. We may be ignoring another person, not really listening at all. We may be pretending to listen. 'Yeah. Uh-huh. Right.' We may practice selective listening, hearing only parts of the conversation. Or we may even practice attentive listening, focusing energy on the words being said.”

Your friendship, your marriage, and your relationships are developed through the art of listening. Usually, our instinct to talk is stronger than our instinct to listen.

Everyone should be quick to listen; slow to speak. James 1:19

Real listening demands full presence and attention. We put aside our agenda, take a break from what we’re doing, and give our attention to the other. Our willingness to understand what the other person is experiencing, is feeling, and is thinking and shows respect for their insights and strengthens our connections.

Be aware that sometimes a person who opens up to us is not looking for answers. They may just be looking for a companion—not a teacher, not a savior, not an expert, just someone to listen. So just listen!

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 13:9