BECOME A BETTER MAN – 4 (The Art of Listening)

Listening is something we have to learn to do because it is a learned skill. There is a significant difference between hearing and listening.

Hearing is a biological function, and like breathing or blinking it happens whether you are consciously telling yourself to do it or not.  Listening, on the other hand, is a mental process.  It requires thought, effort, and practice.

Listening is the process of receiving, attending to, and assigning meaning to oral and visual stimuli.”

We’ve all had that moment where, after turning through several pages of a novel, we suddenly realize we haven’t the faintest idea of what we just supposedly read.  We saw the words on the pages, but we didn’t actually take the time to process them mentally.  In other words, there is a difference between seeing and reading.  Seeing happens as long as your eyes are open and you have a gift of vision.  It is a passive biological process.  But reading requires you to exert some brainpower.  It is an active process of making meaning.

Listening in Perspective.

Listening is the most frequently used and invaluable skill we could possibly have for our personal and professional lives. You might be surprised how much we are required to listen in the course of an average day.  Yet, unlike many of the other essential skills in our lives that we have learned through some combination of schooling and experience, very little time has been devoted to training us as listeners.

  • Most of us probably received a minimum of 12 years of instruction on how to write well, yet it is a skill that is only used in approximately 9% of the average person’s daily communication.
  • Reading often receives between six and eight years of formal instruction, yet it only accounts for 16% of our communication.
  • Speaking receives a paltry one year of attention, perhaps two years if we’re lucky, and it is only 30% of our communication.
  • Listening, however, often receives less than a half-year of formal training, yet it makes up 45% of our daily communication.

These statistics above highlight a grave oversight in our education that, with a little effort, can be improved and yield tremendous and immediate results for us. There are three levels of listening we have to choose from during any given interaction.  Defining each level is the first step in understanding how to improve our habits.

Level 1: Hearing Words

This is everybody’s default level – the misconception that we are listening! This level puts us in the uncomfortable position of misunderstanding a message where you jump to conclusions, or unable to recall the message within moments of it being said.

Sometimes we are vaguely aware that we are to blame, yet other times we try to pass the blame on to the speaker, claiming that he or she was not interesting or engaging.  The most alarming thing about this level of listening is that we are emotionally and mentally detached from the speaker.

Level 2: Listening in Spurts

In this category, we are listening but just!!! You are aware to some degree that you are listening poorly and you know that concentration on the message is important, so you may be able to tune in temporarily, but only hear in “spurts” because you lack the required training.  In this type of listening, you are always looking for  the next opportunity to jump in and speak rather than actually attending to the message of the other person.

Level 3: Empathetic Listening

This is the real deal. This is proper listening where you set aside internal and external distractions so as to listen without judgment or interruption where you are emotionally and mentally invested and provide verbal and nonverbal feedback to the speaker.  Empathetic communication is like a partnership, and both individuals must play their role.



Each interaction with others people carries with it an Opportunity and a Possibility. Every person you meet is a potential new Friend, Lover, Client, soul for the Kingdom or Destiny Helper. Every day you’re making contact with people for the first time; it happens so often you may not even really register these encounters. Whether these possibilities turn into something often hinges on the first impression you make on them.

Have you ever heard the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover?” Many people have never thought about their first impression because they think changing it would mean acting fake, or that judging someone at a glance is superficial and inaccurate. The implication here is that people have already decided on what you’re like before you’ve said anything beyond your initial introduction.


Characteristics of First Impression

  1. First impressions are registered with lightning speed,
  2. First impression last a surprisingly long time.
  3. Because of what’s called the “primacy effect,” people tend to lend more weight to the things they learn initially about someone, rather than the information they take in later.
  4. First impression forms a filter or lens through which a new acquaintance will henceforth see you.
  5. Moving forward, people generally look for your behaviors that confirm their conclusion from their first impression.
  6. Largely people ignore things that contradict that first impression they had of you.
  7. Once you’ve made an initial impression on the clay of their mind, the rest of the relationship tends to follow its contours, affecting all their future thoughts about you.
  8. It can take up to six months of regular contact with someone to change their initial impression and alter the lens through which they see you.

It might seem unfair that people form such a firm assessment of you in such a short time, and think that these snap impressions are bound to be faulty. Yet dozens of studies have shown that first impressions are actually highly accurate in gauging a person’s true personality and abilities.

What makes good first impression?

Generally, people like other people who are:

  • Warm
  • Confident
  • Trustworthy
  • Credible
  • Kind
  • Attractive
  • Make them feel comfortable
  • Feel interesting
  • Feel valued.

Basically, people like people who seem like they’ll be a social benefit, rather than a social burden. People are attracted to people who have something to offer — not just monetary resources, but those of many different kinds. People are looking for those who come bearing 4 social gifts: Appreciation, Connection, Elevation, and Enlightenment

On the other hand, people tend to avoid “high maintenance people” – those who are boring, empty, self-absorbed, insecure, and needy; people who will inflict a cost; who will require a greater energy investment than they give. So if you’re serious about improving the impression you make externally, you have to start by shaping your inner values.

Mastering the mechanics of a positive first impression thus isn’t about hiding your true personality or trying to be someone you’re not. The goal of improving your conversational strategies and body language is simply to get these external behaviours to match and enhance, rather than contradict, your inner self. Doing so helps you reveal and showcase your best qualities, and gives others greater access to them. Such packaging may only be skin deep, but it draws people in and entices them to want to “unwrap” you further.










  1. Fear is a biological instinct that prevents us from doing stupid things that might kill us. For example, fear kicks in with good reason when we see a slithering snake or look over the edge of a cliff.
  2. Fear is a spirit (False Evidence Appearing Real)

Examples of fear: –

  1. Fear of speaking in public
  2. Fear of height
  3. Fear of rejection
  4. Fear of flying
  5. Fear of spider or snake
  6. Fear of intimacy
  7. Fear of death
  8. Fear of lack or inadequacy

While fear works to prevent us from physical pain, it can also hold us back from the chance at the pain of a crushed ego and the exhilaration of victory and success. Hence the Bible say “God has not giving us the spirit of fear but of love, of power and a sound mind” Imagine the power or effect of fear. In order to counter it, God gave us three things to nullify fear – Love, Power & Sound mind.

The knowledge of the character of a person or a thing helps us in knowing how to deal or relate to the person or thing.

Characteristics of Fears

  1. Fear is irrational. Even though no one can ever be fully rational in their choices and behavior, but every man should strive to live with reason and ration as his guide.
  1. Fear is cowardly. William Shakespeare said “Cowards die many times before their death but valiant never taste of death but once”

Every man seeks to be brave and courageous. But we often try to frame our fears in ways that either soothe our egos or camouflage them in wisdom. We say that things like:

  • I’m being prudent or cautious.
  • It’s not important to me.
  • I’m just a little nervous.
  1. Fear robs you of your integrity. Integrity means behaving in a way wholly congruous with your beliefs and values. But when you want to do something that you believe is the right thing to do, but fail to do it because of fear, you violate your core values – your N.U.Ts. Living true to your principles will always involve a healthy measure of overcoming your fears.
  1. Fear pushes you from the driver’s seat. A man is the captain of his own destiny. He makes the choices and chooses the roads that lead him to his goals. But a man ruled by fear abdicates his captain ship to his fear. He gives his fear the steering wheel. Fear turns analysis into paralysis and makes coward of men
  1. Fear leaves regrets. A man does not dwell in the past. He learns from the past, but never let it hinder him. But if you allow fear to keep you from seizing opportunities that comes your way, you will inevitably look back, kick yourself, and wonder why you let fear have its way with you.
  1. Fear slows down your personal growth. A man should always be striving to improve himself, to be a little better than he was the day before. But there is no growth without risk. But note that improvement does not equate comparing yourself with another man (Bible calls that foolishness). Rather, the one and only competitor you have is the man in the mirror; that is the man you need to be better than.


How to Overcome Our Fears

An Irish poet – Brendan Francis once said: “Many of our fears are tissue-paper-thin, and a single courageous step would carry us clear through them.” We need not live our lives captive to our fears and insecurities. You can, through your will, become the master of your fears.


  1. Change your perspective on fear. Fear is only a negative thing if you believe that it is. For instance, is the pain you experience while working out a negative thing, or is it just the feeling of your body getting stronger? You can choose to think about it simply as the “pain” your body experiences as your character develops and expands. There is very little growth where there is no pain and work by elevating your vision and your perspective will change. Instead of seeing the tackling of our fears as nerve-racking, see it as an adventure.
  1. Change your perspective on risk. Differentiate between short term & long term risks. The root of our fear is our fear of trying something and crashing and burning.
  1. What if I get rejected?
  2. What if I fail?
  3. What if they laugh at me
  4. What if, what if!!!

These are short-term risk assessments. But in making such a short-term risk assessment calculation, you are leaving out the long-term risk, a risk that’s far riskier than any short term blow to your ego.

The long term risks are these:

  1. The risk of never amounting to anything – because you refuse to try.
  2. The risk of living a completely mediocre life – because you refuse to grow.
  3. The risk of looking back in 10, 20, or 30 years and feeling your stomach turn with regret – because you took the short cut.
  4. The risk of missing out on the experience and always wondering what it would have been like?
  1. Think about the great men of history. What we call personal fears and challenges can seem overwhelming and insurmountable. But with the proper perspective, they can seem rightfully manageable. The next time you feel paralyzed by a fear, think of the following courageous men of the past.
  1. Sir Edmund Hillary ascending Mt. Everest in 1953 – he said “People do not decide to become extraordinary. Rather they decide to do extraordinary things”
  2. Noah – build the Ark for 100 years without any knowledge of what is called rain. Imagine the mockery and ridicule but he kept going.
  3. The astronauts sitting in Apollo 13.
  4. Kill the fear with logic. As we mentioned above, fear is not a rational thing. The solution is thus to kill it with logic. The best way to do this is to ask yourself this question: “If I do this, what is the worst that can happen?”



Become a Better Man – “Finding Your N.U.Ts”

One of the most important challenges facing every good man who wants to be better is to know exactly what he’s committed to. Without a clear understanding of what is acceptable and what is not, a man is likely to find himself going down a path of compromise, resentment and despair. So, what’s a better man to do? Find his N.U.T.s and maintain a firm grasp.

N.U.T.s are your Non-negotiable, Unalterable Terms. N.U.T.s are the things you’re committed to, the things that matter more than anything else: your kids, your career, your primary relationships, yourself, your purpose, your spiritual practice, your hobbies, your integrity, your morals and your psychological well-being.

N.U.T.s are the boundaries that define you as man and when repeatedly compromised, will gradually but assuredly turn you into a resentful man who will likely blame others for your unhappiness. Your N.U.T.s are uniquely yours. They reflect who you are as a man and the man you want to be. Compromise your N.U.T.s, and you’ll compromise yourself. Compromise yourself too often, and you’ll become an extremely unhappy man, husband and father.

In order to find your N.U.Ts, here are some of the questions you’ll want to ask yourself:

  1. What’s most important to me in life?
  2. Are there activities I used to do for fun that I no longer do? Is someone interfering and am I resentful because of it?
  3. Are there valuable friendships with men I’ve let slip away?
  4. Where am I currently having problems (unhappy, frustrated, sad, angry, resentful) in my life, and did compromising myself—and what’s important to me—contribute to my feelings and/or the situation?
  5. What dreams have I abandoned?
  6. If I’m going to be the man I want to be, what will I have to do differently?

Once you find your N.U.T.s, never forget them and never compromise them.