If there is one skill that is most highlighted and trained on it is listening. In his book, The Normal Christian Worker, Watchmann Nee dedicated one chapter on listening. There is a ton of information and heartfelt words throughout the chapter, below are 3 points I gleaned and want to pass on to you.
3 attributes for better listening skills:
1. Listen to understand what the speaker is saying
Someone could go on for quite a while and we would still not understand what their situation is, says Nee. If we are thinking about what we want to say, while the speaker is speaking, instead of simply listening for understanding, we are not listening. In this case we are telling the other person that what we have to say is much more important than what they are saying.
Consider this, if we hear with our own prejudices, experiences, and limited knowledge we can “understand” the speaker’s situation completely inaccurately. For example: if I had experience with an addiction, either my own or via others, I may attribute your difficulties to addiction because I am only attaching my own experiences to your situation.
So, let’s consider putting off listening from our own point of view and begin to listen from the speaker’s experience.
2. Discern the inaudible
It is common for people to tell one side of the situation, leaving out other factors that can account for the problem. When speaking of problems, we can not simply address superficial concerns. To help the speaker understand the whole issue, we need to have an understanding of the heart and its relation to God. Without that we can not speak of the cure.
You may have heard the phrase, “it takes two.” This phrase relates to the fact that the speaker is one of the two people involved in the difficulty and we have to be aware that they are relying only on their perceptions of the story. When I coach, I like to ask questions that cause the speaker to look at the situation from another perspective.
This way of listening is super helpful to someone when they are stuck and can’t generate multiple options to resolve a pressing issue.
3. Discern what their spirit is saying
This is a difficult task if our own exercise with The Lord guiding our own experiences is lacking. Nee says we need a regular practice of prayer (talking to God) so we can help others to connect. As we learn that connecting our hearts with the Lord’s heart takes time and considerable effort, we will become patient to help others learn to connect their heart with the Lord.
I often get out of the habit of asking what God would say about a situation, or what He has for me to learn. When I am aware that I live to honor God it would make sense that I would ask these questions regularly.
Empathy is a huge part of good listening skills. In this case knowing what it took to overcome a situation such as: building a business, reconciling a failing relationship, or loving unconditionally, will strengthen our ability to listen. As a result we will put judgment aside, allowing trust the opportunity to grow in most relationships.
“There is no cheap and easy way for anyone to be of use to God and fellow man.” -Nee
It takes work to become useful to others and being a good listener is certainly very useful! Below are some questions that can get us on track to becoming better listeners.
- What experiences or biases can be set aside to allow our ears to be more open to the individual talking?
- What questions can we ask that would dig deeper into the heart of the matter? Are we spending quality time reading and absorbing the bible so we can know what cure to speak?
- Are we applying what the bible says in our own life? Journal a difficulty you had and the biblical remedy applied to it.
These are great questions to engage with a friend or spouse. As always, I am curious to know how you and your relationships are affected by these ideas. Feel free to pass on the link to this post. There is always room for more peacemakers.