A lot of people talk, right? Many of us have probably learned, communication is essential to all relationships. I have noticed that people will hold several conversations with one another throughout the day, yet they are not always very good listeners. Now, some people are great at listening; they show us they care from their eye contact to their questions asked. However, for the rest of us who may be too quick to reply and not quick to listen, here are some practical suggestions to become a patient, grace-giving, and understanding listener.
Let them talk; do not interrupt.
We all know this one can be difficult, especially if you think of something randomly or do not agree with the speaker; however, interrupting tells the speaker that you do not care enough to let them finish what they are saying. By exercising patience, you are sending the thoughtful message that you value what they are saying and who they are as a person! While sometimes polite interruptions are needed, one good reminder is James 1:19. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.”
Listen with the intentions of understanding, not just replying.
Many times even I find myself impatient in a conversation. We all want to voice our opinions! However, during conversations, rather than thinking of what your reply will be, consider what your companion is saying. I have found this to be helpful again as it proves to them that you are paying attention and caring about what they are saying.
Ask questions, clarify, and be interested.
This is a good way to engage deeper into the conversation and learn more about what they are saying. Taking the time to ask questions shows others that you are not just listening to what they are saying but that you are willing to further understand. Asking them to clarify statements shows interest. You might find that you can learn a lot from them!
If possible, make eye contact.
I used to be really bad at making eye contact during conversations. While I cannot say that I have mastered it, I have realized its importance and strive to do better! Have you ever had a conversation with someone and while you were talking you notice them staring off into the distance (or on their phone)? Whether this ‘lack of focus’ bothers people or not, we should do our best to pay complete attention. Eyes are really expressive and making contact can mean a lot to you and others.
Follow up; see how they are doing.
This may not apply to all conversations, but when possible, one thoughtful thing you can do is ask them how they are doing concerning what you last talked about. In deep conversations where they shared their hurts with you, continue to support them and see how they are doing. If they mentioned a prayer request, ask them how God answered it. Or if they need help, figure out how you can better encourage and love them. That effort will not be overlooked; and I can promise you they will appreciate it.
In our world of quick messages and busy schedules, the importance of meaningful conversation is easily forgotten. We tend to rush through life and forget that a good listening ear is sometimes all a friend needs. By applying these five principles toward becoming a better listener, I hope you will see how your relationships can be affected positively.