If one gives an answer before he hears,
it is his folly and shame.
Strong but true words. We do this on different levels. There is the surface level in which we actually begin answering before the person has completed the question, only to find that we wrongly anticipated what the question would be. “No, that is not what I was trying to ask.”
We give unasked for answers, such as when a person is sharing a concern, and we take it upon ourselves to give solutions when all the person wanted was a listening ear. “Thank you, but I already know what to do.”
And there is the level in which a question has been asked, and we miss the target in our response. “No, you don’t understand.” And the reason we don’t understand is that we did not hear well. This might be for a number of reasons. The person did not articulate himself well, thus misleading us. But we could have dealt with that by asking good questions first that helped the person communicate better. Quite often the reason we do not hear well is that we are formulating an answer while the person is still communicating. We don’t want to be caught without a wise answer, so we begin thinking through a reply while he is still speaking.
Don’t worry about having answers. It is better not to have an answer than to have a wrong one. If you must disappointed your inquirer, it is better to disappoint by confessing that you do not know the answer, rather than to disappoint by leading the person astray and making the matter more befuddling and leading to greater shame.
But you are more likely to have a wise answer if your primary concern is to listen well. Take the time to listen. Ask good questions. Do not be in a hurry to reply. And most importantly, pray for wisdom. You will be surprised by the answers that you did not have the wisdom for but was given at the right time by the Holy Spirit.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By D. Marion Clark. © 2023 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org