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Few things are as spiritually and emotionally comforting as spending time with a good listener. Sadly, I can count on one hand those in my life who qualify as good listeners. They’re few and far between – diamonds in the rough to be cherished when discovered.
Thankfully, there is no natural talent needed to be a good listener. It’s a condition of the heart, and all of us can do it if we want to.
Here are ten ways to listen better.
- Stop thinking of yourself. This is hard, but rewarding. Caring about what is being shared more than yourself is the mark of someone who is truly engaged in conversation.
- Become less busy. Sometimes we can’t listen simply because the clutter of our lives is making too much noise. In this case, simplifying may be the best way to go.
- Slow down. Don’t move so fast that you don’t have time for quality conversations. Most people don’t share important items during short exchanges.
- Try to hear the heart of the speaker through their words. When people share something with you, they are longing for you to connect with their emotions. A good listener discerns how someone is doing emotionally and responds appropriately.
- Be hesitant to offer instruction. And I mean be very hesitant! People want to know you care and are hearing what they’re saying before you start to assume and make judgments.
- Leave your expectations at the door. You may think you have a good read on someone, but the beauty of relationships is their ability to surprise us. We always have more to learn about those we are spending time with. Don’t let overconfidence hinder your ability to listen.
- Be encouraging. There is nothing wrong with being an uplifting listener. It doesn’t make you dishonest; people are desperate for encouragement, so offer it liberally but appropriately.
- Be patient. You may be able to discern a problem or concern when hearing what someone shares with you, but be patient with him or her. People are often mentally working through things. Sometimes asking the right questions can help them towards the correct path much more than stern corrections can.
- Follow up. In the right way, at the right time, reach out to those who share concerns with you. I always know someone has been listening well when he remembers details and can recite them back when checking on me.
- Intercede on their behalf. A good listener remembers, so a good listener knows what to pray for. Always be in tune to needs during conversations so you can lift others up in prayer.
These ten are not always the easiest things to remember, but they are needed. Let’s commit to listening more and talking less.
My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry … (Jam. 1:19)