God gives us daily opportunities to bless the people we meet. As one church, we can speak a blessing on our cities and communities, invite God’s presence, and pray for protection and peace.
This month, we invite everyone to be a blessing to others by actively listening and praying very specifically for them. James 1:19 tells us, ‘My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.’” Let us take this opportunity to not just pray for the people we meet, but to be available to actively listen when they need someone to talk to.
When we listen to people, try to spend at least 90% of the time listening so you will have something meaningful to say. When we actively listen, we consciously try to understand the complete message of the person, not just the words he or she is saying. Here are some tips to help you actively listen to people:
- Meet in a place with little to no distractions. Public places aren’t the best place to meet people who want to share something personal with you. Aside from these places being noisy, with a lot of things going on that may take your attention away from the person confiding in you, he or she may be hesitant to share because of fear they may be overheard.
- Focus on the other person. Do not allow yourself to lose focus on the person confiding in you, and avoid the temptation to get or look bored. One useful tip is to mentally remember of some of their keywords; this helps you stay focused and keep track of what their key issues are. Also, put aside your mobile phones so you can avoid browsing websites and social networks in front of the person confiding in you.
- Don’t form counter-arguments. Our primary objective in active listening is to provide a stable ear and prayer support for the person confiding in you; it is not primarily to offer advice, or to condemn him or her. We want to bless them, not condemn them.
- Ask about or paraphrase key points to ensure you understand what they’re saying. Every now and then, ask the person confiding in you if you’ve understood, or paraphrase a key point. “So when you said this, what did you mean?”, “So do you mean,” or “So you said this (key point). Did I understand you correctly?”
- Be tactful but honest in your response, and always leave an avenue for hope. You can be truthful in how you respond to the person confiding in you, but remember to be respectful of his situation, and continue to treat him with respect. Remind him that there is always hope in Christ.
- Set action items or another date to talk, and don’t forget to pray for him or her before you leave.
Sometimes, God may speak to you very clearly during this time and invite you to preach the gospel to the person confiding in you. If this happens, ask Him for courage and wisdom, and share it towards or at the end of your listening session. We listen in order to preach the gospel, so don’t lose sight of that goal as well.
If you would like to share how God gave you an opportunity to listen to someone, share how it happened–not the story that the person shared with you, please!–and use the hashtag #EngagePH. Also, if you have any other ideas on how we can listen to others to be a blessing to them, you can leave a Comment.
Some of the content in this article were taken from Active Listening.