God leads us. But how good are we at following?

Now, bear with me. I’m going to go off in a different direction for a moment but it will all tie together in the end.

When a mother is pregnant, at about six weeks her body floods the baby with a hormonal bath of estrogen. Baby girls go through this hormonal bath fine. But the brain of a baby boy is forever changed: the divider between the two hemispheres of the brain is destroyed.

This means that women can switch between the right brain and the left brain very easily and very fluently, but men need a manual stick shift to move between the right brain and the left brain. The reason this is important is because the two sides have very different jobs. The left brain is the thinking, assessing, logical side of their brain. The right brain is the feeling, creative side of the brain.

Women can go back and forth and multitask and use both sides simultaneously, even. This means she can be on the phone, cooking dinner, answering her three year old’s question, and go out to the garage to grab a bag of frozen peas, all at the same time. But men have a hard time going from feeling to thinking and from thinking to feeling. They need a moment to manually shift over.

(This has useful applications to body language: people tend to lean their head to the right or left depending on what side of the brain they’re using. Leaning their head to their right means they’re engaging the right brain. If they’re leaning their head to their left, then they’re engaging the left side of the brain. Furthermore, if you ask people a question, people will also look in the direction of the side of the brain they’re engaging. This means that if they look up and to the left, they’re remembering, but if they look to the right, they’re using the creative side of the brain– to make up something and lie.)

Communication is a dance. There’s a leader and a follower, and the follower needs to be in sync with the leader and be willing to be lead. The follower needs to follow the leader’s timing– if they are even a second out of sync then there’s going to be some stepped-on toes. When a dance is fluid and the partners are in sync, the dance is beautiful. But when the partners are even a quarter of a second out of sync, the dance doesn’t work nearly as well.

When a women switches back and forth between left and right brain, between thinking and feeling, she’s the one leading the conversation. And the man (needing to manually shift gears to follow her) needs to be in sync with where she’s leading. If he isn’t, he’s going to step on toes.

In communication, a quarter of a second out of sync is forever. You might as well be having two different conversations. If a man reacts in a left-brained, thinking way and meanwhile she’s moved on to her right brain and feeling– she’s going to feel as if he isn’t listening to her, isn’t understanding her. If he’s thinking and trying to solve the problem, and she wants him to listen and feel with her, then she’s going to feel very misunderstood and frustrated. And he will feel frustrated as well.

We need to intently listen to people. We often stop listening once we think we know what they’ve said, and start thinking about how we’re going to respond. But we might miss the real message behind their words. Instead, engage in focused listening. When we’re intently listening to the other person, we aren’t thinking about what we’re going to say– we’re completely in the moment, in tune with where they are leading us in their conversation. 

Listen to everything– throat clearing, where they stumble, the filler words like “um” and “you know”– the things we tend to filter out. A marriage can end because of a cleared throat someone missed. Be in tune with their silences. Those pauses they have between thoughts.

Learn to be comfortable in silence– another person’s silence while they try to gather their thoughts, your own silence as you wait for them. Learn that it’s okay if you don’t get to what you wanted to talk about as long as you’ve connected with the other person. Learn to prioritize connection in conversation rather than information.

Many marriages fail because someone stopped intently listening, or someone stopped intentionally speaking and/or speaking with intention.

But a big part of communication happens in ourselves.

When we speak a language we aren’t fluent in, it’s frustrating– we can’t communicate our feelings. How many of us aren’t fluent enough in English to communicate our feelings, needs, desires, etc. Can we even communicate these things to ourselves? If we can’t communicate it to ourselves, how can we expect another person to receive the message? Listen to yourself as well.

Many of these lessons can be applied to our conversations and communication with God. I’m speaking to myself as well here! I need to inquire after the Lord daily, and seek after Him while He may still be found. We call it our “walk with God,” aptly enough. We want Him to lead us, but how willing are we to be lead? To follow where He leads us? Are we in-sync with Him? Are we aware of His (perfect) timing? Are we intently listening to Him, to His still, small voice? In prayer are we leaving any time for sitting in silence, listening for Him to speak, or is it all about us and what we’re going to say next?

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