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Resources for Listening Well

By Bryan Tener

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One of the most important ways of connecting with others is listening well. When we’re trying to connect with new people in the community, church members, or those in close relationships, listening is important. When we don’t listen well, the people with whom we are seeking to connect notice.

There may be many reasons we don’t always listen well. It’s easy to get lost in distractions, thinking about our next meeting, getting our next response ready, or thinking about how busy we are and don’t have time to listen. It’s difficult to care for others or build meaningful relationships if we don’t overcome the barriers to listening well.

Over the last few weeks, I have discovered some resources concerning communication and effective listening:

A news article from the Seattle Times titled "27 Thoughtful Questions for Deeper Conversations" suggests some alternative “go-to” questions to spark meaningful conversations and build deeper relationships. Check out the article as you seek to build relationships or connect with other people in a way that leads to invitation.

Another good resource is a podcast, The Jordan Harbinger Show, where Charles Duhigg discusses communication and listening. Discussed in this episode are the three categories of conversation (practical, emotional, and social), the foundations of communication and what makes us unique as humans, how to become a better active listener, and other aspects of communication that can help you become a better listener.

From the show:

Looping for understanding is a habit I find myself all the time without even thinking about it. Ask a question, preferably a deep question. Repeat back what you just heard the person say in your own words and ask if you got it right. And the reason this is so powerful is that it proves that I'm listening to you when we're talking to each other. There's something in the back of your head that's wondering, “Is he actually listening or is he just waiting his turn to speak?” And when I repeat back what you just told me, when I ask a follow-up question that shows that I was paying attention. When I prove that I'm listening, we are hardwired to want to listen back. - Charles Duhigg

Click here to listen to this episode, read the transcript, and check out other resources related to this episode.

A third resource is the book, You’re Not Listening: What You’re Missing and Why It Matters by Kate Murphy. The author makes a case for listening more effectively. People struggle to pay attention to others due to a self-centered culture, technology, and divisive politics. This leads to effects that contribute to loneliness, mental health challenges, increased hostility, and misunderstandings among people who hold different beliefs. Effective listening can help reverse these effects. This deep model of listening goes beyond processing what someone says to trying to understand how the speaker is feeling and why that person is trying to share something with you. Three main benefits of active listening include creating relational connections, fostering growth, and making space for cooperation. Murphy also offers action steps and advice to overcome the challenges so that effective listening becomes possible.

Each of these resources offers valuable insights and action steps to try as you work to develop listening skills that help deepen or start meaningful connections. They also point to other resources that will help you dig deeper and grow in how well you listen. I invite you to check them out and let me know what you think. If something stood out for you, was new to you, or if you’d change or add to what these resources offer, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to email me at [email protected].

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