Learning to listen
The gift of a listening ear communicates love and grace, qualities found abundantly in Jesus. In this age where social media has diminished our communication skills, perhaps there is an even greater need to listen well, writes Phil Slaney
‘Our love for others is learning to listen to them’ – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together
Skill in listening is not a natural ability, but one that everyone must work to develop. Research indicates many people are poor listeners, although virtually everyone listens, only a few do it well. Active listening demands concentration. The listener searches for meaning and understanding. It requires energy and effort and can be potentially tiring because it can be hard work.
Hearing involves perceiving a sound with the ear. Listening involves paying attention to the sounds and perceiving the meaning in them. Most people don’t listen with the intent to understand, they listen with the intent to reply. Listening to someone patiently and sensitively is a great gift. When someone listens carefully to us, it helps us feel as if we matter.
Jesus was a champion listener, we find evidence of this in John 3:1-21 where Jesus teaches Nicodemus to listen; in John 4 when Jesus listens to a Samaritan woman; and in Mark 5:24-32 where Jesus heals a sick woman. The gift of a listening ear communicates love and grace, qualities found abundantly in Jesus.
Careful listening is often the most appropriate way, within or outside a congregation to show love and to communicate that God is love. Being a good listener encourages others to talk about themselves. A listener can create an opportunity of letting the speaker process their feelings out loud.
Learning the art of silent responsiveness is essential to good listening. One of the primary tasks of the listener is to remain silent so that the listener can discover how the speaker views his or her situation. It’s helpful to listen by looking beyond the words. What is the person really trying to say? Can we sense their heart as they speak?
Learning to listen requires paying attention with our ears, our eyes and our hearts.
In this age where social media has diminished our communication skills, perhaps there is an even greater need to listen well. How many of us are so busy looking at our screens that we miss opportunities to listen to others? Are we so preoccupied with new technology that we no longer pick up the phone to communicate with family and friends?
Based in London, Phil and Wendy bring a wealth of experience over 30 years in church ministry and pastoral care. Phil is a qualified Psychotherapeutic Counsellor and Wendy is a volunteer Samaritan Listener. They passionately believe that listening to others is a great privilege.
Phil and Wendy are now offering churches an interactive workshop on improving listening and interpersonal communication skills. This will include; helping to find ways of offering emotional support, how we listen to people who need us, exploring the barriers that can prevent us from listening and knowing the difference between sympathy and empathy.
Broadmead Baptist Church in London is one congregation to have benefitted from the workshop. Its pastor the Revd Gareth Wilde said: ‘We found whilst our congregation was very well meaning in its pastoral care and bereavement visitation, most people still appreciated the universal skills of receiving true listening and empathy.
'I have since begun to see more sensitivity in pastoral visits as a result of the training workshop’.
For more information and to discuss your church's requirements contact:
Phil Slaney & Wendy Sandilands
Tel: 07989 668780
Phil was previously church secretary at Highams Park Baptist Church in London
Image | Unsplash
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