What if you knew a simple secret for better relationships with the people you love? This simple gift can make us better wives, parents, and friends when we give it generously. It can make us wiser counsellors. It’s one of the most precious gifts we can give someone, yet it’s not as easy as it sounds.
Listening is a gift we can give every day, and if we do it well, it brings life to our relationships. Don’t you love that feeling of being understood when someone leans in and listens to you? We feel valued when someone seeks to understand us, and we have a hard time developing rapport with people who constantly jump in to interrupt or share their thoughts too quickly.
But we all know listening isn’t as easy as it sounds.
My tendency to distraction affects my relationships. As a busy wife, mom, and church leader, one of my biggest battles is being present. Many nights I sit down to dinner with my family, and the conversation goes something like this:
“Mom,” my daughter says. “Did you hear that?”
“What do you want for your birthday?” I ask my husband.
“I already told you,” he answers. “Didn’t you hear me?”
You can imagine how this makes my family feel! So one of my goals this year is to grow to be a better listener. You might need to grow your listening skills too, and the book of James offers us this practical wisdom for better relationships:
James’ advice speaks loudly to me because not only do I get distracted in conversations, I also tend to jump in with my own comments or give advice quickly. Or even worse, I let frustration make me quick to speak.
4 Keys to Better Relationships
In the heat of a conflict, listening before we air out our own anger can save us. Yet even in ordinary, everyday moments, the gift of listening communicates love, honor, kindness, and consideration. Listening helps us build bridges with the people we love.
So I’m on a mission to learn to put the brakes on my mouth and slow down enough to really listen to people. Can you think of anyone in your life who might need you to listen more? Here are 4 steps we can take to become better listeners:
1. Give the Gift of Undivided Attention.
Listening begins with giving the other person your undivided attention. Instead of glancing at our phones, shuffling papers, or folding laundry, let’s slow down to look at the person speaking to us.
2. Ask Ourselves, “What Does this Person Need?”
Does the person talking to us have a need? Are they trying to pass on information, connect emotionally, or do they simply want some company? Does the person want help and advice, or do they just want to be listened to? Let’s try to respond according to the need of the person talking.
3. Listen without Interrupting.
Why is this so hard? So often I get excited and chime in with my reaction, or I jump in with my opinion. What if we make an effort to wait for the other person to finish talking?
4. Listen for Understanding
Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Ouch! All too often, this is me: delighting to share my own thoughts. What if we listened not just to respond, but to actually understand? This Psychology Today article suggests that three words send a powerful message that the person we’re talking to matters: “Tell me more.”
Let’s cultivate better relationships by listening to people today. Which one of these 4 steps do you need most? Do you know someone who may need a listening ear? It might be a co-worker, a child, or your husband. Listening might just be the best gift you can give them.