The dirtiest job on a baseball field is the catcher behind the plate. He/she has to put on protective equipment which is hot, clingy, and sweaty. To boot, it is the most violent position on the playing field. Winning or losing depends on a team touching home plate more than the opposite team. Often, the catcher has to stand in the way of the runner before he/she touches home. Usually, this is a bang-bang play meaning the ball arrives at the same time as the runner intent on scoring. Many times, this ends up being a very unpleasant, brutal experience. As if this is not enough to dissuade a player from being a catcher, the pitcher often throws the ball in the dirt and the catcher has to block it, and the batter frequently foul tips the ball. In both cases, it ofttimes ends up bouncing off the uncovered areas of the catcher. I can tell you from personal experience this hurts! There is nothing pretty about being a catcher.
On top of the above a catcher has to be an unselfish player. His/her primary job is to make the pitcher look good. In fact, the success of a catcher is measured by the success of the pitcher. The catcher must stay in sync with and trusted by the pitcher. In fact, an outstanding catcher is called a great receiver. A good catcher has to be a student of the pitcher and the opposing team. He/she must know what pitch needs to be thrown to support the pitcher’s success. Consoling and motivating the pitcher when things are not going well is very important for a catcher. At times, firmness without being perceived as attacking is called for to keep the pitcher in the right frame of mind. By the way, the catcher never embarrasses a pitcher in front of others.
Catching is an accurate, perceptive metaphor for active listening. For a healthy relationship to grow and flourish, both parties need to become good catchers…not an easy job. Initially, it is a tough task but can become the change agent for struggling, conflicted relationships. Your job as an active listener is to set your mind on understanding and becoming a good student of the speaker. It’s not about your own personal success. The success of active listening is based on the edification of the speaker whether that be a spouse, child, friend, boss, client. As an active listener, your job is to transcend from your opinions to the feelings of the speaker mirroring back to the speaker what he/she is saying, using phrases like “Let me make sure that I got this” or “So, I understand you to be saying…” These phrases are meant to understand and encourage the speaker reflecting that you are a trusted listener. By the way, everything that is personal to the sender must be kept confidential. Never embarrass the speaker. During the process, the active listener must validate the speaker with phrases such as “I can understand that…” or “It would make sense to me that you would think that…” Empathy is essential with phrases used like ““and I can imagine that you must feel…” or “that makes sense.” Don’t forget the success of the catcher (listener) is measured by the success of the pitcher (speaker).
Understanding that you may have animosity towards the speaker, why would you give this person the gift of active listening? “Chew on” Philippians 2:3&4, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.” Active listening can change hurtful relationships forever. It is hard, unselfish work but good listeners become change agents. Pam and I know this to be true because active listening changed our marriage.