I love to talk. Especially if you can get me talking about something I’m passionate about, such as the ministry at Bethel, LINC Twin Cities, or good choral music. I’m sure you have your favorite topics as well. “Don’t get me started!” But as much as most of us like to talk, we also know the value of a good listener. This reminds me of James 1:19, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…” The Bible calls for us to listen first. What great advice for us as we seek to develop Christian relationships between the members of our church and especially with others outside of our church so we can share about Jesus.
When somebody has something to say to us, we show that person respect by actually receiving the message they are sending! But researchers have found that on average we only retain 25-50% of what we hear in conversation! That’s like leaving out every other word! There’s nothing more damaging to a relationship than having someone share something important with you only to have you promptly forget. Active listening can help us strengthen relationships by opening up better lines of communication. Below are a few tips to help us all be more active listeners.
1. Pay attention. Eye contact is great. Look for both verbal and nonverbal cues. (85% of communication is nonverbal!) Keep your mind active. Avoid distraction.
2. Show that you are listening. Make sure that the other person knows you are listening. Nod or give verbal cues that you are listening and want to hear more.
3. Don’t interrupt. Interrupting sends the message that what the other person is saying is not as important as what you have to say. Wait for the right time and you will be listened to as well.
4. Provide feedback. Respond in ways that reflect what you’ve heard. Nothing is more affirming to a person than to have the opportunity to clarify or to hear what they have said back to them.
5. Enjoy good communication. Active listening opens the door for more comprehension and better communication. Relationships thrive in this environment, even when the conversation is tough or even adversarial. Open, honest, respectful communication is always better than the alternative.
Active listening is exactly what’s happening in GodSpeak! First, we listen to God in His word. So as you listen to God, pay attention, interact with the text, ask questions, and most of all, don’t interrupt! What God has to say is always more important than what we have to say. Just as James 1:19 said, we must listen first, then we know what to speak. In our GodSpeak groups we get to practice active listening with each other. We all have different experiences and reactions to the Bible. We’re all trying to discern God’s absolute truth. Think of what happens in our groups when we actively listen to each other. Think of how God will be able to speak to us and through us when we understand each other better. What a blessing to listen to God, listen to each other, and be listened to yourself. Enjoy!
Blessings, Pastor Seabaugh