Have you ever had someone listen to you? I mean really listen. No interruptions. No uninvited advice-giving. Just creating an accepting, unhurried, safe space for you to speak, and think, and solve your own problems by yourself. For me, it was my mother who first listened to me. I could lean over the kitchen counter while she prepared dinner, and pour out all the ideas and trivia and thoughts that bubbled through my head, and make sense of who I was and what was happening in my world, because she was there to listen. I know that the quality of her listening empowered me to know myself and grow into who I am today.
Nancy Kline’s book “Time to Think: listening to ignite the human mind” is about “what can happen if you listen expertly…if you ennoble people with the depth of your attention and shake them to their roots by convincing them that they can think for themselves, if you take them into your heart, if you show them that who they are and what they think matters, profoundly.” Kline describes how to create the ideal environment for people to think to their full potential – and it all starts with high-quality, attentive listening.
We all want to be heard – and understood, and accepted as we are. We feel validated and valued when someone hears us out – and we’re more likely to relax, and acknowledge we’re wrong, and listen back. Most professional counsellors will tell you that active listening is more powerful than good advice.
If you want to empower God’s people and give them a voice, you’re going to have to learn to listen. That means slowing down, biting your tongue, being fully present, not getting distracted, and not jumping in too quickly. Good facilitators are good listeners. In Fresh Start Community, we begin with an open time where people can share what God is doing in their lives. We have found there is enormous value in listening to people respectfully and attentively, and creating a safe environment for people to be deep, and honest, and vulnerable. When the leader demonstrates how to listen well, the rest of the group pick it up naturally and apply it too.
Take the risk of listening to God’s people, and not interrupting to correct them or improve upon their answers. If you slow down and really listen, you’ll communicate more than you realise – love, acceptance, value – and you might just hear the Holy Spirit speaking to you through the other person.