There is an art to listening. Most of us believe that we are reasonably good listeners but the truth is, we could all improve our skills to effectively listen and show empathy to other human beings.
I believe that listening well makes you a far better communicator than speaking well. Simply put, listening well demonstrates that you put others first. It is a selfless action to listen rather than being heard. When a person needs someone to listen to them, essentially they need someone to relieve them of their burdens. When we listen well, we unlock their mind and allow the burdens to release. Have you ever been overwhelmed and confused by the challenges in your life? If you were given the opportunity to unload, you felt better, right? Since this is so important, let’s look at a few of the most important ways that we can develop good listening technique.
>Concentrate. Focus on what is being said instead of how you will respond. Most of us tend to hear while we are actively thinking about how we will respond or how we can relate to what is being said. You must completely focus on what they need to say.
>Let the other person speak without interruption. When you interrupt with your questions or your thoughts, the person doesn’t feel a sense of getting to complete their story. You have interrupted their train of thought and even though you may understand the situation, they may perceive that they were not listened to. If you are concerned that you will forget your questions or the points that you would like to make, try taking notes.
>When they are done speaking, then you may ask questions. If the person is looking for advice, here is where you may offer it. If they are not looking for advice but are instead trying to problem solve, try drawing them out with open-ended questions. Asking questions is also a great non-confrontational way to help someone see truth or error in their thinking. They are more likely to come to conclusions without feeling judged.
>Exhibit pleasant facial expressions while listening. Natural eye contact with a relaxed smile will make the other person feel cherished. If appropriate, nod your head but be careful here – you can give the impression that you are agreeing and that may not be the impression that you want to communicate.
>Summarize what you have heard in conversational style. This is your opportunity to make clarifications and prove that you have been actively listening and that they have been heard.
>Finally, make sure to follow up with the person at a later time. Following up demonstrates your sincerity and it shows that you care about and value this person.
Let’s look at another type of listening. Listening to someone who is upset with us. Too often, we feel the need to defend ourselves. God’s word gives us much help in this area. James 1:19 says “so then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath”. Proverbs 15:1 says “a gentle answer turns away wrath, a harsh word stirs up anger”. As difficult as it is, a confrontational situation can be defused by following these very simple words.
Listening is so much more than using our hearing sense. When we really listen, we are fully engaging many of our senses. We not only hear but we see the other person’s emotional state and we feel compassion and empathy. One of the most powerful ways to minister to another human being, is listening to them. Most people don’t need someone to solve their problems – they need someone to listen. When we give our time, and make the effort to really listen, we lighten the burdens of another human being. Most of us won’t get this completely right every time but try putting a few of these tips into practice every time that you have the opportunity.