How well do you listen? Listening is a powerful practice that connects us to people in a deep and profound way. It is a way to show genuine love for one another and helps us to be fully known.
Listening well calls for an attitude of humility and grace but it has become a lost art. We live in a culture that elevates and celebrates self-centeredness and independence. Even Jesus followers struggle in this area and are prone to be poor listeners. We want to do things our way. We think mostly about our own schedule, plan, and agenda for the day. As a result, we don’t seek out deep and meaningful connections which require being attentive to others. That takes up too much time and requires too much work…yet it is exactly what our souls need.
The effect that listening has on our spiritual health and vitality cannot be overstated! So, do you want to become a better listener? Here are 4 steps that will help you!
Assess Your Listening
Many of us may think that we are good listeners when in fact we aren’t. It’s easy to deceive ourselves. We play the part well. We can look as though we are present and following the conversation but in reality, we are going through our mental “to-do” list or figuring out a way to solve whatever problem is presenting itself.
So, how can you know if you’re listening well? Assess your listening! Set aside 15 minutes to walk through the following assessment questions found HERE. This exercise will give you a fresh perspective on how well you listen and alert you to the barriers you face. It will also help you become focused on a specific individual you want to give your attention to.
Our job as listeners is not to change someone’s mind. Our role isn’t to play the fixer. We listen to others in order to understand them. There is nothing more we all desire than to be known, seen and understood.
Listening well doesn’t just happen. The best way to become a better listener is to practice! Our real-life experience will help us be more present and focused as we engage with others. Do an experiment. One day this week, decide that you are just going to listen to people. You are not going to give advice or fix things. You won’t mentally check out. Ask some good open-ended questions. Reflect back what they said. Thank them for sharing.
Reflect on Your Experience
Often times we practice something but never reflect on our experience. Reflection is a key aspect of learning! After you spend a day listening, record your thoughts and insights about your interactions. Try to do this at the end of the day or as soon as possible after each interaction. What was it like for you? What was easy? Hard? How was your listening received by others? What did you learn? Where was God in all of it? What was He teaching? How was He affirming?
Slow Down the Pace of Your Day
Don’t be rushed. When our schedules are so jam-packed, requiring us to run from one thing to the next, we compromise our ability to be able to listen. We don’t notice what’s going on around us. We are not able to be present. Listening requires margin and space to linger.
We all long to be heard. Our desire for connection runs deep and our stories are important. Help someone be able to share their story by becoming a better listener! Your soul will become fuller because of your connection with others.