Missed Part 1? Read it here. This second installment of my three part series on Hearing vs. Listening walks you through the steps and skills of taking a conversation from a mere transaction to an encounter.
Deeper Steps in Listening
1. Invite/Invoke the Holy Spirit into the conversation
When you meet a person for the first time, you might have a general idea on what they need or maybe you share a similar interest; however, we often have no idea what the deeper layers of a person might contain. Inviting the Holy Spirit into a conversation is definitely a game changer. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the Trinity which is the glue that puts everything together and makes it possible. He is in control. We become the instruments in which the love of God flows through us to directly to the person we are speaking to.
2. Have a “cup of tea”!
Imagine sitting on the porch or patio with a friend on a nice, crisp, cool, autumn morning casually drinking tea, contemplating life and in no hurry. The conversation that follows could quite possibly be the most inspiring, unobtrusive, time well spent for anyone. Can you recall those moments when there are no words to describe the inner joy gained from the company of
another? That, my friend, is simply called grace. When approaching a conversation with this mindset, a significant difference can be made in the life of someone who is in need of Jesus. Make yourself available to have tea with the person God needs to encounter today.
3. Create a “safe” place to talk
“Say to the LORD, “My refuge and fortress, my God in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:2
Along with following the steps towards a peaceful environment listed in Part 1 under basic listening skills, people need a place to be themselves, vulnerable and honest. Relationships are built on a foundation of trust and nonjudgement. Ensure that you foster a hospitable environment where trust can bloom. Many of us have broken relationships, struggles, difficulties and hardships that lead us back to Jesus and the Church. Like, Chris Bartlett always says, “Sometimes you need to talk about nothing in order to talk about something.”
The stage is now set. Sit up, listen in and hold on tight for the adventure you have just embarked upon. Only God knows where this beautiful conversation is headed. It’s up to you to sharpen your ears and skills to catch the clues with which you can affirm the other that you are listening. You will gain tremendous insight into what a person’s priority, passions and influences are.
Role Play Example:
Me: So, tell me a little bit about your prayer life.
Guest: Well, I once had a rosary when I was a little girl but it has been a long time. My grandma gave it to me.
Me: Oh, tell me about your grandma.
Guest: Well, … (my guest, share with me details about her grandmother)
Me: That’s great! It sounds like your grandma was a role model of faith in your life.
Guest: Yes, that’s why we prayed the rosary at her funeral and now, I need to find out what to do to have my children baptized in the Catholic Faith.
5. Ask open ended questions
Let me first tell you what close ended questions are. They are questions that usually generate a “yes” or “no” answer and most often begin with do you…, can you…. or will you? They sound more like an interrogation rather than a conversation.
Open ended questions cannot be answered in only one word. They are most often invitations to chat, visit, or learn more about. They foster an atmosphere of casual and comfortable conversation that will help to establish good communication. Take care to ask questions in a mild and unaggressive way. An example of open ended questions might be: Tell me about____, how might the church serve you and your family? What was your last visit to mass like? These types of questions take a conversation from a transaction to an encounter.
6. Let them tell you their story – and you listen to them
Everyone’s stories, life experiences, childhood days, school years and many more factors make up a person’s life. Every single one of us is different. Our faith life is no exception. God desires each of his children to be with him and no matter where one starts, there is always another step to take closer to God. You might start by asking them “How did you find this church or Tell me your story, how’d you get here?”
“Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows.” Luke 12:7
7. Wrap up the encounter aka conversation by giving them their simplified action steps and assuring them that you will pray for the things that they are struggling with. They will be surprised and probably a little amazed that you were paying such close of attention to them.
And that, my friends, is how to take listening to the NextLevel! I hope that you find these 7 steps helpful in your ministry or even in your daily life. I’m reminded of the childhood saying that says, “God gave us two ears and one mouth” which translates to use your ears more than your mouth and you will be just fine!