The Gift of Listening

There is a well-known adage that says, “Preach the gospel always, and if necessary use words.” Obviously it is not possible to literally preach the gospel without using words, but the point is to let your life and actions speak so loudly that they demonstrate the gospel in practice. The problem with words, especially in relationships, is that they must be heard amongst all the noise! The Apostle James gave us some good advice to guard against our propensity to talk too much. “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry” (James 1:19). Really, no one cares what you know until they know you care. And care is an action, not a monologue.

In Christian publishing, there is likely no topic written about more often than relationships. When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he answered “Hear O Israel the Lord our God the Lord is One” and “You should love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31). The first thing we learn here is the concept of unity, “the Lord is One.” Elsewhere in scripture, Jesus prayed that his followers would be one (unified) just as he was one (unified) with the father (John 17:11). Immediately after the call to unity, we learn that we are commanded to love God and love one another. Realize this however; when the lines of communication in relationships are broken, and walls of bitterness and resentment are built between people, it becomes increasingly difficult to love one another!

Let’s take a moment to consider the biblical concept of love. Oftentimes, in the Christian faith, it is presented that there are three different types of love. There is the love of a brother, the love of attraction and, of course, the “agape” love of God. But really, only the love of God is true love. Genuine love attaches nothing to itself, is a complete gift with nothing expected in return, and is a choice not a feeling. It is the love of 1 Corinthians 13. The others are really what they are described as; friendship and attraction, not love. Sure you can love a friend and you can love someone you are attracted to, but those feelings are not love.

And this brings us to the importance of listening. It can be said that listening, like love, is a gift you give to someone else. If given with no conditions attached, listening may lead them to inner healing and powerful revelation. Here are the steps to follow if you want to give the gift of listening. It would not be fair to present the following tips without giving credit to Dr. Dallas and Nancy Demmitt who present this information so well in their book Can You Hear me Now? It contains the roadmap to excellent communication and does so with Christ at the center.

Use the following five steps to help you become a focused listener and you will bear the fruit of James’ advice, “Be quick to listen and slow to speak.”

Anchoring
When entering any conversation first take a moment to anchor yourself in Christ. Remind yourself in whom you have your identity and from where your true value and strength comes. If you do this, nothing that is said in communication can shake you; no weapon formed against you can prosper (Isaiah 54:17). Now you are prepared to give the gift of listening.

Focusing
There is nothing more frustrating than talking to someone who is distracted and seems to have any number of more important things to do. If you want to be sure that a person feels valued and cared for, then get in a place where you can pay attention to what they are saying. Turn off the TV and radio, and please put your smartphone away. DO NOT answer a call or text while engaging in a serious conversation.

Summarizing
If you really focus on what is being said, summarizing in your own words should be easy. This is the time to tell them what you heard so you can make sure there is common understanding between you both. This process can be repeated at key moments in a conversation so that, without interrupting, and when there is a natural pause in the conversation, you can say, “Let me summarize what I hear you saying.” If you are on target you can move on; if not, then you can work at it till you are. This ensures that you will never leave a conversation believing the person meant one thing when they actually meant something else.

Inviting
At the moment the person has come to the conclusion of the point they are making and you have arrived at common understanding, then you can invite more information by asking the simple question, “Is there anything more?” Give them time to explore their feelings and, if there is more, practice all of the previous steps while they express more of their thoughts. When they have nothing more to offer then you can move on to the final step.

Asking
“May I ask you some questions?” With permission, ask clarifying questions or questions that might invite someone to go deeper. This is when the person may experience that real gift of your listening. Instead of giving advice, allow the person to come to a deeper revelation as they explore, for themselves, all they are thinking and feeling. Instead of telling them what to think or do, let them come to conclusions on their own. Answers arrived at like this are transformative and invoke a sense of trust, not in you, but in the God who is the giver of all good gifts.

Yes, oftentimes we speak so loudly that no one can hear what we are saying. So, next time you are having a conversation, practice these things and then stand back and watch God work miracles in your relationships.

Dr. Jeff Hazim is a Chiropractor and nutritional counselor practicing in Pompano Beach (TheBrowardCenter.com), and Executive Director of “Biblical Health Television”, the only TV network devoted to Biblical Health (BiblicalHealth.tv). Weekly Radio Broadcasts: BlogTalkRadio.com/BiblicalHealth

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