All church leaders have church members who want to talk with us at times. Sometimes it’s an emergency. At other times, it’s a longer-term need. Many of us, though, aren’t the best listeners. Here are some ways to do better:
- Pray for listening ears. If you’re like me, you need divine help to be fully attentive in many situations. Ask God for focus, even if you pray that prayer silently throughout the conversation.
- If possible, talk face-to-face. It’s just easier to listen when you’re looking somebody in the eyes.
- If time allows, schedule a meeting time to talk. Emergencies happen, but it’s good if time allows you to set aside time specifically to listen and talk.
- Sit down during the meeting. Your body language says something different when you sit down; it says, “I want to focus on this situation at hand.” Standing says, “I don’t have much time.”
- Turn your phone off. For some of us, the only way to get fully away from our phone is to turn it off and leave it across the room while we’re talking and listening.
- Talk little. If you talk a lot, you can’t be fully listening. Some leaders – like pastors, who make a living talking – struggle here.
- Get comfortable with quiet pauses. Just because the speaker isn’t talking doesn’t mean he or she has finished communicating. A pause is not an automatic invitation to jump in with your verbalized thoughts.
- When appropriate, ask questions for clarification before giving advice. Questions say, “I want to learn more, and I need this additional information. I’m listening to hear your response.”
- Repeat what you think you’ve heard. You might have heard what the speaker intended, or you might have missed it. The only way you’ll know is to purposefully seek clarity.
- If applicable, determine with the church member some action steps to take after the conversation. When you know you want to make a difference as a leader, you’ll listen more attentively in order to dialogue about next steps.
What other steps would you add?