My wife and I go for a walk almost every day. We walk almost every morning and every evening in our neighborhood. We walk on the grass, the sidewalk, and along the road. And while we walk, we talk. We talk about all kinds of things, big stuff and little stuff. We also take this time to solve problems that come up. I love jumping into the conversation and solving problems. But sometimes my wife asks me to just listen. She’ll say to me, “Babe, I’m not asking you to fix anything, just listen.” And I do. And by listening, I can help her
Like me, have you ever found yourself unable to help someone because you didn’t listen well enough? In this teaching, let’s explore the art of listening well to help others, and learn a few practical keys that can make us better listeners. And let’s also learn from someone who was a great example of a good listener.
Why do we want to listen well? Being good listener can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. People who listen well stay focused, ask good questions, they try to understand, and respond with a heart and mind to help.
Be Quick to Hear
James 1:19 says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath.” We are to be quick and speedy to hear. We have two ears and one mouth, so listening may be twice as important as talking. Listening is a great way to show love to someone and demonstrate that their life is important to you. And after we listen and understand more, we can then speak the truth in love. We want to demonstrate our love and compassion for others.
I John 3:17 says, “But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” What are the bowels of compassion? That means the tender affections, kindness, benevolence, and compassion. We listen to others with compassionate kindness. With the love of God that dwells in us, we help others to meet their needs in this world with the spiritual truths we learn from God’s Word.
So, first, we’re quick to listen, then, second, we gain understanding in order to help.
Proverbs 18:13 says, “She that answereth a matter before she heareth it, it is folly and shame unto the her.” So, don’t respond to someone without first hearing what they have to say. Listening to gain understanding to help others is important. Remember, we are quick to hear, and we are slow to speak.
No Formula, But Practical Keys
There’s not a perfect technique or formula for being a good listener. It’s more about an attitude of heart. We listen with a heart to help people, knowing that we have a spirit within us and the spiritual truths we have learned to apply to help others. We can listen to help.
There are some practical keys that can make us better listeners: Be quick to hear. Slow to speak. Be engaged. Be aware of your response (verbal and non-verbal) to what you hear. Avoid judging and being critical. Seek to understand. And ask questions.
We can become genuinely interested in people and get engaged in their lives when we listen with love and respect. We gain their trust and come to know what kind of help they need. And we have the love of God to give to help them.
One aspect of engaging with someone is to first handle distractions. You may need to move to a quieter place, turn off the music, put down your phone, and look directly at the person whose speaking to you. I have to remind myself to remove my hands from my keyboard, so that I can listen better to someone whose talking to me while I’m typing. And when someone is talking, believe to understand. Believe to understand them. When we focus on listening and believing to understand, we show that we value what people have to say.
Another key to listening well is for us to be aware of how we respond to what we hear. Our response can greatly determine what is shared. If someone thinks that we’re giving a negative response, they may struggle to continue to speak openly. A positive response could be a simple nod, smile, saying, “I hear you,” eye contact, and leaning closer.
Proverbs 20:5 says, “Counsel in the heart of a woman is like deep water, but a woman of understanding will draw it out.”
Refrain from Judgement
While listening we refrain from judgement or criticism, and we listen openly, which is another important key to listening well. We can avoid judging others according to our own emotions, our own experiences, or preconceived ideas. When we listen to others while being careful not to be critical of their thoughts or feelings, we make them feel at ease. Remember, we are seeking to gain an understanding so that we can help people with a spiritually-based, good response.
Asking questions is another practical key to listening well that helps people to open up and talk. For example, let’s say someone says to you, “Boy, I’m tired.” What you can ask is something like, “What kind of tired are you?” This one question may open up the person to a more in-depth conversation.
In Acts 8:30, there’s a story about Philip. Philip applied this principle of asking questions as a key to listening well. One day, Philip was walking along and saw a man off to the side reading. Philip could have just passed him by. But instead he asked, “Understandest thou what thou readest?” And that one question lead to a life-changing conversation between the two men that you can read about in Acts, Chapter 8.
Another example of a good listener can be found in a story of Jesus Christ. He was listening to help in Luke 24, beginning in verse 13. In this story, two of Jesus’ followers were walking along the road to Emmaus, just after witnessing some shocking, life-changing events. As they were walking, they were trying to adjust to the new state of affairs. The person that they were following, Jesus, was killed. They witnessed that. But now they hear people reporting seeing angels, others saying that Jesus was alive again, and others saying that Jesus’s tomb was empty. Well, Jesus caught up to them and began walking with them along the road, but the two men didn’t recognize Jesus. Luke 24, verse 17, shows that Jesus listened to the two men carefully, gained an understanding of why they were sad, and asked them a question.
Jesus asked, “What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”
He asked the question, although he knew the answer. The answer was that he himself was the subject of their discussion. He could have illuminated their thinking immediately, but Jesus encouraged them to talk about what had happened, what they experienced, and what they heard. He listened to them. Then he responded.
Luke 24, verse 25 and 27 reads, “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, Jesus expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” He taught them everything.
Jesus didn’t reveal who he was to them. But because he listened well, he was able to answer their questions, and teach them the Word, the spiritual truths, that they needed in order to be encouraged, and to have no fear, but to rejoice in what had happened. Jesus worked with these two men, listening and talking, because they were confused and not yet convinced of the truths concerning Jesus Christ. Later the men talked about their time walking and talking with Jesus, saying, “Did not our hearts burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” The really enjoyed the conversation.
Like Jesus Christ, we too can listen to people when they need help in their believing. Being a good listener can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. We can ask good questions. Stay focused on what we hear, just like Jesus did on the road to Emmaus.
I Peter 3:15 says, “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and respect.”
Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”
When we listen to someone, it doesn’t matter who it is, we want to help. Then we can give to them the spiritual truths that we know with love and care. We want to listen well to help.
Proverbs 25:11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.” Listening can make a big difference in our ability to help someone. So, let’s be ready to listen well.
If you enjoyed reading that article, you may want to check out "Common Ground" and learn about two great men who had the same mindset.
I John 3:17
I Peter 3:15
Tips for Men to Be Better Men, Wonderful Husbands, and Loving Fathers