Listening. This would be the receiving part of communication and I will freely admit I do not always do it well. James 1:19 says we “should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” yet so often I am quick to speak, slow to listen and quick to become irritated/annoyed/offended (ie. angry). So, as I have been praying for God to help me learn the art of listening, here are a few things He has been teaching me:
1. Just hold your tongue. (literally if necessary!) When someone is talking to you, wait before responding. Let there be a minute of silence. Think about what you need to say before you respond. In that silence, a very cool thing often happens- the person talking begins to share something more, sometimes deeper in their heart, than what you just heard. It gives you more insight into them before giving your thoughts, advice, opinions. And it gives you time to process what they are saying. This one I do well at work, but poorly with my family, so I am really working on it!
2. Ask questions. Jesus was the master question asker! People would ask him a question and he’d pose one back to them. It’s an excellent way to allow others to come to a good conclusion without “telling” them what to do or how to do it. It’s also a good way to eliminate assuming or your end. Often we think we know what someone meant until we ask a few questions. What makes you say that? What do you think God thinks about that? How long have you been feeling that way? What has worked well in the past for you in this area? How do you feel about that? How can I help?
3. Reflect back what you heard. It’s also called clarifying and it’s shocking how many times I think I know what someone is telling me until I do this. It would sound something like: So, what I hear you saying is…… or What I think you are telling me is….. The key to this is reflecting it back and then allowing them to restate or rephrase if you don’t have it quite right.
4. Don’t “take away” what God may be saying. Often because we love our friends and family, we try to make them feel better when they share a struggle. In that effort, we may try to convince them they are not feeling a certain way or experiencing a specific issue. If a friend says, “I just feel like I’m a terrible mom” don’t answer with “Oh no, you aren’t!” Maybe they are struggling to love their kids and need some help. Or if someone says “I’m so depressed” don’t say “You have tons of reasons to be happy!” to try to cheer them up. Go back and try numbers 1-3 first.