By Jim Tune
I’m pretty good at talking. It’s a big part of what I do for a living. When I look for leaders, I look for someone who can communicate.
I’m convinced, though, that speaking and writing are only part of what it takes to be a great leader. Leading also involves listening.
“Somewhere along the way we start to violate the natural order of things,” McHugh continues. “Speaking our minds and asserting ourselves take priority over listening. . . . We consider our great Christian task to be preaching, rather than assuming the listening posture of a servant. We speak volumes, but we listen in snippets.”
To make matters worse, almost everyone thinks they’re a good listener. Not only are we bad at listening, we don’t know how bad we are.
The result? Most of us are starved for someone to listen and care.
“I would argue that the fact that we pay millions of dollars annually for people to listen to us indicates our poverty in this arena,” writes McHugh. “Everyone is talking, but so few people are truly being heard.”
Listening is one of the greatest things we can do to show our love for others. Not only is it a loving thing to do, but it will help us be more effective as leaders. I think it will even help our churches.
So how do we become better listeners? There’s no formula, but we can take some practical steps.
First, we should take a good look at our lives to see what gets in the way of listening. We’re all different. Some of us tend to be loud, while others tend to become distracted. It’s worth asking someone close to us what they think prevents us from being a good listener. Just be prepared to listen when they answer.
Second, we need to put our screens away, at least some of the time. For the first time in history, boredom is easily avoidable. We have an endless supply of entertainment and distraction available to us anytime. While smartphones and tablets can be very beneficial, they can interfere with relationships. We could all benefit from technology-free zones where we would be free from distraction and completely focused on the other person.
Finally, just practice. Like any skill, we’ll get better with experience. Pay attention to what good listeners do. Copy them. Don’t worry about the mechanics of this. Just focus on the other person. Most importantly, develop a listening heart.