As a pastoral counsellor, one of the traits that I continue to develop is that of “listening”. Before I started to study this skill, I thought “listening” simply meant to nod your head now and again when someone is telling you their story and make the appropriate sounds to indicate your interest. However, as I counsel others I recognise that I must be able to read between the lines and hear that which is not spoken.
One of the best guides I have found for laypersons is the one found in the “Lay Chaplain’s Notebook-Module Six: Listening Skills [25/5/00]” which is used by the **Community of Hope Lay Chaplains. I am sharing the adapted form with you and hope that it will be beneficial to you in your ministry.
What a good listener does:
1. Listens to understand what is meant.
2. Knows that in addition to “hearing” a spoken word, attention must be given to:
a. Tone of voice
b. Facial expression
c. Overall behaviour and body posture of the speaker
3. Takes time to observe - takes care not to interpret too quickly:
a. Looks for clues as to what the other person is trying to say.
b. Puts himself/herself [as best he/she can] in the speaker’s shoes.
c. Tries to see the world as the speaker does.
d. Accepts the speaker’s feelings as facts that must be taken into account - regardless of how the listener feels.
4. Puts aside one’s own views and opinions for the time being. Realises that one cannot listen to himself/herself inwardly and at the same time listen outwardly to the speaker.
5. Controls impatience, knowing that listening is faster than talking. The average person speaks about 125 words a minute but can listen to about 400 words a minute. The effective listener does not jump ahead of the speaker but gives him/her time to tell his/her story. What the speaker will say next may not be what the listener expects him/her to say.
6. Does not prepare an answer while listening. Wants to get the whole message before deciding what to say in turn. The last sentence of the speaker may give a new slant to what was said before.
7. Shows interest and alertness. This stimulates the speaker and improves performance.
8. Does not interrupt. Questions are meant to secure more information, not to trap the speaker or to force him/her into a corner.
9. Expects the speaker’s language to differ from the way he/she would say the “same thing”. Does not quibble about words but tries to discern what is meant.
I would like to encourage you to consider learning all you can about “listening skills” as it is applicable to everyone, whether you’re involved in ministry or not. You will find it useful as a parent, supervisor on the job or schoolteacher in the classroom. There is one website that I recommend highly: International Listening Association – http://www.listen.org It is filled with resources and membership is open to all.
[The Community of HOpe is a programme for volunteer Lay Chaplains and you can visit their website @ http://www.slehc.org/AboutUs/Spirituality/COH/Index.cfm]
Author: R Cecilia Askew
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Thank you, I'm certain I could use a refresher on my listening skills, this is well written and extremely needed in todays "fast food" society mentality, we really need to embrace and slow down and hear what people are saying to us, with listening comes healing...may the Lord continue to use him for His Good Pleasure.