My husband said, “Are you even listening to me?” I thought, what a strange way to start a conversation. (Give it a minute—that’s funny.)
Various studies have noted we spend about 45 percent of our waking hours listening. And studies also confirmed that most of us could be better and more efficient listeners. The art of active listening is a critical skill we all need. To disciple, mentor, or coach others, we need to be able to communicate God’s truth and grace. But to disciple for change, we must learn to be active listeners. Active listening is “The act of mindfully hearing and attempting to comprehend the meaning of words spoken by another in a conversation or speech.” The Bible defines active listening as the following:
–A wise man will hear and increase in learning. Proverbs 1:5a
–Hear, O my people, and I will warn you-if you would but listen to me, O Israel! Psalm 81:8
– After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them ‘Hear and understand. Matthew 15:10
– Then a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!’” Luke 9:35
Most people need a listening heart to tell their story instead of a talking head. And yet, many don’t listen because they are formulating their response before the other person is done speaking. Listening requires humility. Jesus was an active listener. Jesus loved others well in many ways, but the beginning of those ways started with Him listening. He listened without prejudice. He listened patiently and stayed in the moment as He ministered to people. Jesus demonstrated a life of listening to His heavenly Father; “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” (Mark 1:35). Praying means not only asking but also listening to the Father. Something to ask ourselves is whether most of our time is spent telling the Lord what we need or listening to His direction.
In the next conversation you have, be intentional and focus on the person by looking at them. Not your phone, kid, dog, or tv, just looking at them. Listen without judgment or formulating a response before they are halfway through speaking. Use your body language to show them you are listening to their words. Most definitely, refrain from interrupting or talking over the person. There are a few more steps of an “Active Listening” process, but practice this first one, and you will start to see the value and benefit this skill can bring.
Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” May it be so!