Last month I met with our LifeTeam (Small Group) Leaders and for the next two posts I would like to share some of the material we discussed on the topic of listening. This material is adapted from training entitled “Becoming A Great Listener” from the people at www.smallgroups.com.
For most of us active listening is a learned activity because we would rather talk about ourselves than listen to someone else. Here are two ways to improve your listening skills that I hope you will find helpful.
1) Listen with your eyes.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in Tim Horton’s waiting to meet a couple that asked me to officiate their wedding. They were late so I engaged in the age-old hobby of “people watching”. The usual suspects were there, the workers at the drive thru window working hard as the clock ticked with how long the order had been in play. The walk-in customers who thought the drive thru line looked too long. The employees on their break grabbing their mid-morning pick me up and bringing one back for the boss in the hopes the caffeine might change their mood. Finally, there were the regulars, the retirees who gathered together each day for a chat.
There were 3 German men sitting across from me engaged in conversation. Most of their discussion was in their native tongue except for when an english word got the point across more poignantly. A debate developed of which I understood nothing except when one man tuned out his friend. He turned slightly away, he eyes glazed over and his facial expression said “I not interested in your rambling.” Listening with my eyes told me a lot what was going on.
Body language can account for 50 – 70% of our communication. As you are with people today make yourself aware of their body language, they may be screaming “help” with everything in them but their words.
2) Delay Judgement (John 4:1-38)
In these verses, John records Jesus speaking with the woman at the well. Two issues about this story would have stood out to the people of that day. First, there was a problem socially because she was a woman. Second, there was a problem religiously because she was a Samaritan. When the disciples saw Jesus engaging the woman in conversation this was their reaction; “Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.”
The temptation to pass judgment quickly is an eternal battle we all face everyday. As one person said “…when I start judging, I start thinking about what they should do to change, and I stop thinking about what they are telling me.” (I have the habit of this if I am not careful, just ask my kids:) James 1:19 gives us great advice here; “You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”(NLT) If I defer judgment, I find myself asking better questions and getting to the heart of the matter more quickly.
Dale Carnegie said ” Listening is one of the highest compliments you can pay anyone.” Let’s put that into practice today by reading peoples body language and not judging a conversation or situation before its time.