The fruit of a mature spirituality is to be an incarnational presence to another person. It was for Jesus. It is, I believe, for all his followers, especially for those of us in leadership.
The Gospels are filled with accounts of Jesus’ interactions with individuals — Matthew, Nathaniel, a prostitute, Nicodemus, a blind man, a Samaritan woman, and many others. When the rich young ruler came up to him, Jesus “looked at him and loved him.” He listened. He was present, never in a rush or distracted. He took the time to explore stories.
When is the last time someone said to you, “Let me tell you about those Christians — they are fantastic listeners! I have never seen a group of ¬people more sincerely interested to know my world, who are curious, who ask questions — who actually listen to me!”
Listening is not simply a key discipleship issue. It is a core leadership issue.
Give yourself this little listening test. Circle all the statements you can affirm.
- My close friends would describe me as a responsive listener.
- When ¬people are upset with me, I am able to listen to them without being defensive.
- I listen not only to the words ¬people say but also to the feelings behind their words and their body language.
- I have little interest in judging other people or quickly giving my opinion to them.
- I am able to validate another person’s feelings with empathy.
- I am aware of my defensive mechanisms in stressful conversations (e.g. appeasing, ignoring, blaming, distracting).
- I am profoundly aware of how the family I was raised in has shaped my present listening style.
- I ask for clarification when listening rather than “fill in the blanks” or make assumptions.
- I don’t interrupt to get my point across when another is speaking.
- I give people my undivided attention when they are talking to me.
If you circled 8 to10 statements, you are an outstanding listener; If you circled 6-7, you are very good; 4 – 5, good; 3 or fewer, poor — “you are in trouble.” If you want to be really brave, after you score yourself, ask your spouse or someone close to you to rate you as a listener. You may be surprised.
“Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable” (David Augsburger). For this reason Incarnational Listening is one of the eight core skills we teach in The Emotionally Healthy Relationships Course. Join me on June 29th for a three-hour, Live Training on how to lead this Course in your church. Click on the graphic below for more information.