The Apostle James says that we should be, "quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger." (James 1:19) Unfortunately, most of us get this verse backwards. We are quick to speak, slow to hear, and quick to anger. I must admit that many times, when someone is talking to me, I'm spending more time trying to figure out what I'm going to say back to them then actually listening to them. "Listening" has been replaced with "waiting to talk". This is true about Job's friend Eliphaz the Temanite. Before he has a chance to understand Job, we find him already talking.
Eliphaz, after listening to Job, felt a compulsion to respond to Job and to correct him. His response to Job was "who can refrain from speaking?" (Job 4:2) Who can refrain? The answer depends on why you are speaking. If your goal is to support, comfort, and encourage then you will find it easer to refrain. If you goal is to correct and/or prove yourself right, then you'll find it harder to refrain. King Solomon said that, "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions." (Proverbs 18:2) A man of wisdom considers what he says and why he is saying it, but a fool just likes talking. Eliphaz's problem was that he was more interested in talking than understanding.
When we are quick to speak, we often end up responding to a person's words but missing their heart. In chapters 4 and 5, Eliphaz dissects what Job said and lays out his argument for why Job was wrong. While he heard Job's words, he unfortunately failed to hear his heart. Communications is more than just speaking words. It is an attempt to share with someone else the thoughts and emotions of our heart. The words are but containers for those thoughts and emotions. Real communications is when we can hear someone's words and then understand their heart.
I have seen it many times in marriages, where the wife might say to her husband, "You never tell me you love me." And then the husband argues with her and recounts the last ten times he told her, "I love you." He argues over words but missed her heart. Its not that she is really saying, "you never say I love you" but what her heart is saying is that she needs to hear from her husband of his love for her. Job may not have spoken exactly right, but he was trying to conveys the bitterness in his soul. He wanted someone to understand what he was going though. Unfortunately, Eliphaz missed that. Let us learn to hear people's hearts and not just their words.