Unless people believe that you understand them, they will be too upset to be influenced by anything you say. Fine tuning our skills of empathic listening is built on a character that supports honesty and trust in a relationship. It is a type of listening that listens not only with the ears, but with the eyes and heart. An old Jewish proverb said, “No one is as deaf as the man who will not listen.” Frankly, nothing beats listening to people with the intent of understanding their hurt and pain from their own frame of reference and feelings. Yet the reality is most people are more interested in telling than they are listening. As I heard one minister say, “God gave us two ears and one tongue so we could hear twice as much as we speak.” This is a true statement and its concept similarly reiterated in scripture; “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).
Here are a few “good listener” tips to consider:
• Look directly at them when they are talking. Maintaining eye contact is just one way that we silently communicate; “I am genuinely interested in what you have to say.”
• Ask pertinent, open ended questions. “What did you mean by that?” “Explain to me how that made you feel when she said that to you.”
• Do not interrupt. Respect their right to express an opinion, even if you disagree with it. Hear them out before correcting them tactfully and without being condescending.
• Watch your tone of voice. Try not to raise your voice as we sometimes do when we are pressed for time or tired; modeling temperance and gentleness.
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim 2:24-26).