Numerous years ago, a friend and I taught a class of children for Wednesday night Bible study. We were continually being interrupted as first one and then another had to tell us something important that couldn’t possibly wait another minute. At the end of the session, Dorothy and I looked at each other and said, “Did they get anything at all out of this teaching with the million rabbit trails we went down?”
We did some brainstorming about the cause of the disturbances and decided that these children wanted to be heard. A majority of them came from less than perfect home situations and we wondered if anyone ever listened to them. We came up with a plan for the next Wednesday.
When they arrived for the next class, we had them sit in a big circle on the floor. Once everyone was there we explained the plan. First, each person would get a chance to share one thing with the class. Second, we would not ask any questions while in the circle. If more information was wanted, they could get together and talk after class. Third, we would each show respect for the person talking by giving them our full attention by sitting still, not talking, and looking at the speaker.
It took several weeks to really get the showing respect part, but the transformation was amazing. After the sharing circle, the children were ready to engage in the study. They went home happy because someone had taken the time to listen to them and the teachers went home happy because we felt successful.
What about you? Are you a good listener? For some people it takes intentional practice to learn to be a good listener. Here are some tips to improving listening skills:
Eye Contact: It’s very important to look into the eyes of the speaker. When you look everywhere but at them, they think you are distracted and don’t care about their thoughts.
Body Language: Standing or sitting with your arms crossed in front of you at chest level, gives the speaker the impression you are blocked off and not taking in his ideas. Leaning toward the speaker, even slightly, and watching her shows you are interested in what is being said. Throw in a smile and a nod or two at appropriate times and she’ll know she is doing a good job.
It’s Not About You: Hearing another person does not require your input, except to keep the conversation going. Keep your mouth closed and don’t interrupt. Limit distractions, resist multi-tasking, and let them do the talking.
Good listening skills will enhance your quiet time with God each day. The hints here apply to that relationship as well. God will speak to us if we settle ourselves in His presence and listen for His voice. Jesus tells us, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27
There are millions of people out there who don’t have a soul who will listen to them. Who will you listen to today?
Going out with joy today looking for people who need a listening ear-