When was the last time you felt truly listened to? It does not take much, but listening is so important in creating a meaningful space for genuine conversation.
Several years ago I began to notice how poorly I listen to others. So I set out to improve my skills by reading about the topic and practicing what I learned. Over time I realized that my greatest need was not knowledge or an improvement in skills, although these are important.
My greatest need was a change in heart. I needed the Lord to help me love others, and to give me a desire to communicate my love through listening.
Thankfully the Spirit has helped me experience some growth in this area. I find that as he works in my heart, I am able to focus more on the people I’m listening to. I am less concerned about making progress, or even projecting an image of someone who listens well.
At GodTools, we talk often about the importance of listening well to others, to ourselves and to God. It takes work to clear space in our hearts and minds to listen.
We believe there are three keys to good listening: focus, curiosity and insight.
Being a good listener requires focus. We are surrounded by distracting thoughts and messages multiple times a day. To be a good listener, practice focusing your mind and body to clear out any distractions. By giving others your full attention you communicate that they matter, they are loved and they are worth listening to. It makes a difference in any conversation.
Curiosity is the art of uncovering a person’s story through asking questions. This can sometimes feel daunting so let’s reframe it in a new way. Curiosity expresses love by centering the other person instead of ourselves. We believe there are two dimensions of curiosity: being curious about the person, and being curious about God’s work in that person.
As you listen with focus and curiosity, trust the Holy Spirit to give you insight. The Spirit may give you some wisdom to offer in conversation or your insight may be recognizing the right question to ask or an observation to share. Sharing an insight is an expression of love. It is a way of meeting people where they are and helping them take a next step.
I also find that God is awakening in me a curiosity to know more about people. Love compels me to gently inquire about others’ feelings, thoughts and stories as I focus on them. God made people in his image. As I focus my attention on people, with genuine curiosity, I begin to see more clearly God’s image uniquely expressed in them.
Being a great listener is one way to extend God’s love to your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Who will you listen to this week?