True Listening Is Important
This week we added a new resource to our long list of Training Tools: Helping Group Members Become Great Listeners. We’ve had another listening resource, Becoming a Great Listener, for many years, but small-group leaders kept asking, “How do I help my group members learn how to listen?”
Listening well is really difficult, and not many people are all that good at it. But group members need to learn to listen well if we’re going to have healthy, transformational small groups. Helping group members with these skills requires leaders to model them well. Plus, leaders need to learn how to make the most of teachable moments and to confront those who are not listening well. But before all that, we need to convince group members that listening well actually matters.
In her article, “The Heart of Listening,” Beatrice Rusu explains why listening is so important–not just in small groups, but in all relationships. Here’s what she writes:
Listening is important in all relationships. In fact, you can’t have a relationship if you do not listen to the other person. This is true of our relationship with God as well as our relationships with others.
Listening builds relationship in a variety of ways. It is foundational to any relationship because it communicates to the speaker that he or she has value and is worthy of your time and attention. Listening means slowing down to hear and process what the speaker is saying. As we listen to others, we also can identify things we hold in common. Our similarities can bring us together, but this requires the process of discovery through mutual sharing and listening. Listening also helps build trust in relationships. When you feel listened to and valued, you are more likely to open up more. When someone can be trusted to care about a small concern you have, you are more likely to share something significant with this person in the future.
We also know listening is important because the Bible tells us God listens. The Psalms tell of God listening to the cry of the afflicted (10:17, 22:24) and the prayer of the pure in heart (66:18–19). There are also many passages that tell us God listens to his people Israel (Numbers 21:3, Joshua 10:14).
Jesus exemplified the way God listens and cares for people in his interaction with the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Paul E. Miller describes it like this, “When Jesus is with someone, that person is the only person in the room. Jesus slows down and concentrates on one person at a time. … This one-person focus is how love works. Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved. We don’t love in general; we love one person at a time.”