It’s actually quite remarkable the ineptness in the grown-up world when it comes to listening skills. Allow me to bring us back to that most-foundational of relational skills.
A good listener hears both the expressed and implied message of the speaker
This is best demonstrated by the triune God who supplies our expressed message–through prayer (cf. Matthew 7:11)–and our implied message by his Spirit, “We do not know what we ought to pray for but the Spirit intercedes for us…according to the will of God” (Romans 8:26, 27).
My listening skills, however, often miss one of the two. It seems that I’m either hung up on the particulars of what was said missing the unexpressed message, or I’m shooting from what I think someone needs and not hearing what they actually said.
By God’s (and my wife’s) grace, I am learning how to listen all over again. Here are a few lessons I’m learning.
My spirit does not live in anyone else–coming to grips with this has slowed my assumption that I know the implied message of everyone. So I have to ask questions. If I want to understand what someone is saying, asking questions is a necessary means to listening well.
If I’m not a safe listener, I won’t have anyone to listen to — that means that sarcasm, side conversations, distractions, and poor listening postures (eye contact, etc) will repel people from sharing things with me.
Everyone has a story — and it is a part of God’s story. Part of listening well is actively looking for intersections with the story of God and helping the speaker see how his or her story is part of how God is making the entire world perfect again. Picking up on and showing trends in his or her life can help them see an overarching storyline.
For more on listening…