Jesus was one of the most insightful people to ever walk the planet. He knew when questions were sincere or someone was just trying to manipulate Him. He often pointed out the motives behind specific questions. And yet, He was still a remarkable listener.
The woman at the well felt heard and seen because Jesus took time to listen to and address her inquiries. Jesus knew how to ask probing questions and listened to the answers. He paid close attention to what people said to Him.
If it was important for Jesus to be a good listener, it's got to be as critical for us. And the truth is that the better you are at listening, the better you will be at communicating. If you take one person who can articulate themselves clearly and another who is a generous listener, people will always feel like they genuinely connected with the listener.
When it comes to sharing the gospel, people often emphasize saying the right things more than empathetic listening. But listening ensures you’re actually addressing the concerns and questions of others instead of running through a pre-programmed presentation. Not only that, but when people feel heard, they’re more apt to listen.
Here are three tips to becoming a better listener:
1. Stop rehearsing your next point
Too often, when someone is speaking to us, we’re only partially present. Instead, we’re focused on other points we want to make or the next subject we wish to address. It's like we’re just taking a break from talking until it's our turn again.
To be a good listener, you need to be listening. It sounds obvious, but it's the truth. If you’re only kind of paying attention, you're not listening. Also, do everything possible not to interrupt.
2. Ask probing questions
As someone speaks to you, learn to recognize opportunities to glean more information. Are there parts of the story that could use a little more information? Are there elements you don't understand or fear you might be misinterpreting? Ask for clarification.
When you ask people questions, you not only learn more about them, but you also demonstrate that you're truly interested in understanding what they're saying.
That's why we've included sample questions alongside so many of the films on our Watch page. Our resources become more than just videos when paired with powerful questions. They spark conversations and will allow you to hear the perspectives of people you're watching with. And remember, the questions included with our films are just a starting point.
3. Rephrase what you've heard back to them
The goal of listening isn't to be able to memorize their words. Instead, you want to understand what they're saying. The best way to do this is to repeat back to them what you heard in your own words.
This can be as simple as saying something like, "What I hear you saying is . . ." But it can be as casual as, "Wow. So you mean . . ." If you find that people have to correct your interpretation, that's OK. It will help you become an even better listener in the future.
Listening is a superpower
In this day and age, having someone actually hear what you’re saying feels like a luxury. Listening is a skill, and when you invest in learning this skill, it pays off. People trust you more. They open up to you. And they're much more likely to honestly listen when you share your heart with them.
If you're interested in learning more about sharing your faith, check out the "We Are All Missionaries" small group curriculum. It's a helpful resource for studying our call to complete the Great Commission!