“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” – James 1:19
For some of us, listening with sensitivity and without interrupting is a spiritual discipline we haven’t yet mastered! I have a long way to go. Do you?
Jesus was a master listener. He stopped, paid attention to the needs of people in front of Him, and asked heart-opening questions.
- When the desperate woman with bleeding issues managed to get so close she touched his cloak, Jesus stopped. Aware that someone in the jostling crowds intentionally touched Him, he wanted to connect with them. And, even though he was on a serious mission with Jairus, He gave his full attention to an unimportant yet needy woman. (Luke 8:40-48)
- When Bartimaeus, a blind beggar sitting by the roadside in the blazing sun heard that Jesus was coming, he cried out for help. And everyone told him to be quiet! He had no status, he was just a nuisance. Still, his need and his despair were so great, he kept shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” And Jesus stopped, told those around to call him, and immediately asked a heart-opening question, “What do you want me to do for you?”
I almost weep as I picture this man in rags, poverty stricken, without any means to change his life, uttering such heart longings, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:46-52.
There are so many people who long for someone to listen to them. Perhaps you’re one of them?
When I was in seminary all students were required to meet monthly with a Spiritual Director. I wasn’t sure what it would be like or what I was supposed to do—or if I was “spiritual enough” to meet with this super-being! It turned out to be a one-on-one listening time. I talked. My Director listened. She asked some perceptive questions and I talked some more! It was wonderful—and today I love being that listener to others.
But what if you’re the listener? What do you need to know and practice to build deeper relationships? Here are 3 questions to honestly ask yourself (or someone who knows you well and is kind!).
- AM I A TALKER? Do I tend to dominate, interrupt, and must have the last word on a topic? If the answer is YES, YES, YES, then ask God to remind you of Proverbs 18:13, He who answers before listening—that is his/her folly and shame.
- AM I A FIXER? Some people say you should never give advice, but I have mixed feelings on this! I’ve been influenced a great deal by people sharing stories, books, or advice that helped them. But we are all different, so before offering input, ask if they’d like some!
- AM I A LISTENER? Do I notice people, listen without interrupting, pay attention to their emotions seen in their eyes, faces, voice, and body language? Do I show empathy, understanding, and ask appropriate heart-opening questions?
Need some help improving your listening skills? Check out my friend Becky Harling’s latest book, How to Listen so People Will Talk. It’s full of real-life stories, practical tips, and wisdom for handling those pesky situations where it’s so easy to put your foot in it. It’s on my reading list!
Qu. Got some comments about your listening skills, or lack of them? We’d love to hear them.
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