“The heart of a man is like deep water, but a man
of understanding will draw it out”
(Proverbs 20:5 ESV).
What do you value most in your close relationships? How do they help you dream, give you space to be known, and leave you refreshed by their presence?
For me, it’s the ability to listen well.
I think we all have this need to be welcomed. Invited to share; to be deepened in our awareness of God, our own makeup, or a next step we can take through our sharing; and to be honored for what we’ve revealed.
We need a warm and nonjudgmental space where others wait, watch, and clarify while suspending the urge to fix us, simplify our situation, or share what we’ve confided with others.
How do we create an environment that welcomes others to share?
While effective listening is so vital, it’s also rare. Parker Palmer, in A Hidden Wholeness, wrote:
“If we want to create a space that welcomes the soul, we must speak our own truth and listen receptively as others speak theirs. We must respond to what others say in ways that extend the welcome, something that rarely happens in daily life. Listen in on conventional conversations and see how often we respond to each other by agreeing, disagreeing, or simply changing the subject. We do not mean to be inhospitable to the soul, and yet we often are. By inserting our opinions and asserting our own agendas, we advance our egos while the speaker’s inner teacher retreats.”
I love that both Proverbs 20:5 and this excerpt from Parker Palmer highlight how listening can prompt people to be known in their depths or to retreat in self-preservation.
Listening honors God’s intricate, unique, and wonderful design of the person before us. And space to listen, as Proverbs suggests, can connect that person with the Spirit of God, who reveals profound messages to their heart.
Both Proverbs and Parker’s descriptions portray a person’s God-given wisdom, beauty, depth, and complexity. What a celebratory view of others!
When I maintain this high view of others as I listen, I feel less inclined to share my own opinion, jump to conclusions, interrupt, or grow distracted by something that’s taking place outside of the conversation.
Instead, I lean in. I hang on her words. I can’t wait to hear more. I ask simple questions, so she can stay in the flow of her thoughts and move deeper into her story, her journey of discovery. I keep space open for her.
What is one thing you can do to be more of a present listener for someone in your life? What is one thing you can do less of?
How do we shut down distractions to show we’re listening and to allow us to engage fully with the heart and content of the message?
When has someone heard you well? What did you feel? How can you pass that experience on to someone else today, and how can that impact your leadership?