Increase Your Ability to Listen with These Three Easy Questions

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If you’re not listening well, then you’re not leading well. In the church, listening is essential because of spiritual growth. How can you guide someone to being more like Christ if you don’t listen carefully to what they say?

I know I can be guilty of thinking of my next sentence as someone speaks. Just because you’re not cutting people off while they speak doesn’t mean you are listening.

Even when you are listening actively, with the best intentions, you can still miss important cues and information. Not only should you carefully listen to what is said, but you should also listen for what is not said. Sometimes what church members don’t say is as crucial as what they say. Three questions can help you discern if anything significant is not being said.

1. What is avoided? Let’s assume you’re discussing a sensitive issue with two people, one in which an obvious offense exists, but neither of them mentions it. Instead, they talk around the issue. The fact they are avoiding the issue and not discussing it is more telling than the ancillary items they bring up. Also, you should take notice when people hesitate. You might ask someone what you believe to be a benign question, but then the person hesitates in responding. Hesitations should cause you to think there might be something deeper there.

2. What is unknown? Pastors are often the first to know about an occurrence in the church or the last to know. The tone of a group in the church will change, and you won’t know why. They will be unusually sad, unusually happy, or just different. Often, there is something unknown to you. Simply asking what’s occurring will many times lead to an answer.

3. What is hidden? Yes, people hide things, even your closest confidants. When church members confess sin, they rarely confess everything at once. Rarely do conspiracy theories pan out to be accurate, but sometimes people do have hidden agendas. You should remain alert to the assumptions of others.

You should not attempt to “read between the lines” in every conversation. Only paranoid pastors think there’s a hidden agenda in everything. But careful and shrewd leaders grow to appreciate and learn what they don’t know. To gain this understanding, you must learn to listen to what is not being said.