It helps us "unfold and expand," as Karl Menninger illustrates.
I am in the process of learning the importance of listening.
I remember very clearly one day in a church we pastored, the tension of a potential split was heavy on my heart. Two board members asked me to go to breakfast with them, and as we ate biscuits and gravy, no one said a word.
When we returned to the church, with broken hearts they explained what was really going on. I had been their pastor a grand total of a few days, and they felt I had been misled. I listened to them unburden their hearts. I listened to their words, their motives, and their attitudes.
They left that room in the church with the belief we were going to make it. I left with a great respect and admiration for them because I heard them. Listening had made all the difference.
* * * * * * * * *
Later, another conflict arose and I needed someone to listen me. I didn’t need a mentor, just a patient friend who would let me talk through my situation. I called my presbyter, Larry Connour, who did just that. I left our meeting feeling revived and refreshed. The "deep water" of my life was drawn out. Larry understood what I needed most was for him to listen.
Think of a time you added value to someone just by listening.
Most people, in daily conversation, are hearing words, but not listening. They are focused on what they’d like to say next, or how they’d had a similar experience, or were at the same place for vacation, or fill-in-the-blank.
When words like, "I have been there" or "I experienced that also," get thrown into the conversation, we begin the fabled "tennis match" and we no longer converse. When we’re not focused on the other person, actively listening, we are no longer adding value or encouragement.
I wish I had learned this lesson years ago. I would have been a better leader, a more compassionate pastor. I still fail from time to time, but I am working on it.
I now walk away from conversations and reflect on the following:
- Did I talk or listen more?
- Did I pay attention to the person's words, and the meaning behind the words, or did I play tennis?
- How did I encourage him or her?
I'd love to encourage you to reflect on the following in your own conversations:
- How has someone listening to you helped you form solutions to the problems you were facing?
- How has "listening more" changed your conversations?
- How should you change your approach to conversation?
About the Author
Greg White and his wife Nancy pastor in Canton, Illinois. He holds a Bachelors of Arts in Pastoral Ministry and Bible from Central Bible college and has over 30 years of ministry experience. His coaching is directed by the foundational belief that God has put within each person the creativity and ability to fulfill His call in their lives. Greg is a certified coach and trainer with the John Maxwell Team.