James 1:19 NIV
Good listening helps us to build relationships, but becoming a good listener requires some effort on our part. Here are a few suggestions to help us improve our listening:
1) Listen without interrupting. We need to resist the temptation to jump in and finish a sentence, or to turn the conversation around to make it about ourselves and our feelings and experiences.
2) Listen to understand. As someone is speaking, we should try to understand their point of view, feelings, needs, and way of thinking. Good listening is hearing what they actually think, mean or feel, not what we imagine they do. If we’re not sure that we’re understanding correctly, rather than guessing, we should ask, ‘Do you mean…? Are you feeling…?’ We mustn’t assume things, and we shouldn’t be afraid of asking someone to clarify or repeat what they’ve said to us.
3) Listen without judging. We need to avoid jumping to conclusions. If someone says something that doesn’t quite add up, we need to keep listening. Proverbs 18:13 says: ‘To answer before listening – that is folly and shame’ (Proverbs 18:13 NKJV). When we hear more details, it might make sense.
4) Listen without correcting, arguing or devaluing. Jumping in and saying things like, ‘That’s not what happened,’ or, ‘If you hadn’t…’ or, ‘You’re just being too sensitive,’ can put people on their guard and stop real communication.
5) Validate the speaker. We should make an effort to accept their perceptions and feelings as the valid expressions of a valued person. They may have misunderstood a situation, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong to feel the way they do. If we try to understand their perspective, we’ll gain insight into why they feel that way.