When a friend comes to me with something to share, I try to give her my undivided attention. But after a few minutes, I often find my mind wandering and thinking of other things…my to-do list, the next meal I need to cook for my family, my response to her situation.
The pattern of my listening involves a lot of “me” thinking and not enough “other” thinking. Sound familiar?
Join me today as we journey through the what, the where, and the how of active listening. Challenge yourself to offer the sanctuary that comes when we fully open our ears, mind, and hearts to others in His name.
Creating a Safe Haven
”Listening is the oldest and perhaps the most powerful tool of healing. It is often through the quality of our listening and not the wisdom of our words that we are able to effect the most profound changes in the people around us. When we listen, we offer with our attention an opportunity for wholeness. Our listening creates sanctuary for the homeless parts within the other person. That which has been denied, unloved, devalued by themselves and others. That which is hidden.”
~Rachel Naomi Remen
- Listening is a gift of acceptance.
Romans 15:7 (NIV)
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
- Listening requires a sacrifice of self.
Ephesians 4:29 (NIV)
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
- Listening is an act of caring.
Ephesians 4:2 (NIV)
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
- Listening brings Godly results.
Hebrews 10:24 (NIV)
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
- Listening blesses the speaker and the listener.
Proverbs 11:25 (ESV)
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
Explore active listening…
“Pay attention and gain understanding.” (Proverbs 4:1b, NIV)
Listen with your eyes:
Read body language (yours and theirs).
Focus on the speaker. Position yourself in an open, receptive stance
Make appropriate eye contact. Invite the speaker to share.
Interpret non-verbal messages. Notice mirroring behaviors.
Listen with your ears:
Receive the story with eagerness.
Stop talking! Remove distractions.
Concentrate. Be patient and allow moments of silence.
Listen for key concepts. Give attention to language, voice, and tone.
Listen with your mind:
Restate and ask open-ended questions.
Put other things out of your mind. Actively seek to understand.
Paraphrase periodically. Clarify through questioning.
Stay on topic. Never assume.
Listen with your heart:
Reflect with empathy.
Examine your motives. Affirm.
Lay judgment aside. Keep responses unemotional.
Try to understand speaker’s point of view. Hold your advice.
Act as an instrument of God’s love.
Assess yourself as a listener…
- How do you rate?
Reflect on your ability to perform the Active Listening behaviors above.
Rank your ability: 1-poor, 2-fair, 3-good, 4-very good, 5-excellent
Example: Ability to stay focused on the speaker. 4
Ability to notice non-verbal messages. 3
- What has this self-assessment revealed to you?
Challenge yourself to be a better listener today!!
Christians have forgotten that the ministry of listening has been committed to them by Him who is Himself the great listener and whose work they should share. We should listen with the ears of God that we may speak the Word of God.” –Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together (New York: Harper & Row, 1954), 98-99.