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Entries in Listening Well (2)

Thursday
Dec072017

Christmas Doors — Invitations to Joy

In this Christmas UPGRADE, Dawn Wilson invites us to think about the doors we might open to others this holiday season.

I love to see all the pretty doors decorated at Christmas. They look so welcoming. They invite us to share together in joy.

So many are lonely, stressed, even in crisis during the holidays. We may feel caught up in our own holiday joy, but we can't ignore others who struggle to smile. Those who have no peace. Those who hurt and need encouragement.

I've thought about some of the doors we might open to those people. Here are five doors that I call "Invitations to Joy."

1. The Door of UNDERSTANDING

We show empathy and understanding when we learn to listen well.

James tells us to "be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak" (1:19, AMP).

Proverbs 1:5 says, "Let the wise listen and add to their learning." When you listen to people, you encourage them to talk, and that is fertile ground for greater understanding.

As leadership coach Becky Harling wrote in her book How to Listen So People Will Talk, "People feel more loved and valued if we are actively and attentively listening to them."

Empathetic listening is a gift not just for the holidays, but for a lifetime of ministry to those the Lord brings into our lives.

2. The Door of COMMUNICATION

The second part of James 1:19 says, "slow to speak." We must be careful what we say, but we do need to speak up.

Good communication skills can be cultivated when our mouths are full of God's wisdom. Our words are to first be acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14). We can then wisely pray for others and minister to them with healing conversations.

Our words must be carefully chosen to encourage others. Speak words that will build up and "give grace" (Ephesians 4:29).

Speak words of affirmation and hope, not negative, critical and destructive words. Focus on what is worthy (Philippians 4:8) to share this Christmas!

3. The Door of SERVICE

Just as Jesus came to serve, he calls us to do the same. In Christ, we are created to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), and that includes serving people.

God notes how we serve and help others (Hebrews 6:10). He praises a servant's heart.

We are to serve with humility in love. We are to use our spiritual gifts, received from the Holy Spirit, to serve others as "faithful stewards of God's grace."

There are so many opportunities to serve during the Christmas season—both in serving individuals and groups.

Serving others "opens a door" to their hearts.

Don't overlook your next-door neighbor's need, a good place to start. You might even be opening a door to sharing the Gospel; but be willing to serve, regardless.

4. The Door of HOSPITALITY

Paul instructs Christ-followers to "share with the Lord's people who are in need" and "practice hospitality".

Hospitality isn't just inviting someone into our homes. It is first a heart attitude, a disposition, of treating others in a warm and generous way.

But it is also a virtue that extends back to Old Testament times. New Testament Christians also depended on hospitality and offered it freely. Jesus and His disciples depended on hopitality as they served in ministry (Matthew 10:9-10).

Hospitality is a kingdom trait. We bring praise to God when we show kindness, especially to the needy and love others selflessly). Hospitality is an important aspect of our walk with God, and not just during the holidays (Romans 12:13; 1 Peter 4:9).

5. The Door of LIFE

We cannot change a person, but we can speak to them about the door of life—and Jesus said He is that door (John 10:7). He is the only door by which a person can enter and receive eternal life (John 10:9; 3:16). As such, the Good Shepherd is the door to the sheepfold.

The Christmas season is an opportune time to share the Gospel. Be creative in how you share. Think of ways that would speak to specific individuals—that would help them see what God was offering when "baby Jesus" came. 

Jesus was a man on a mission. He came to "seek and to save the lost," and He has commissioned us to share this Good News with others (Matthew 28:19-20).

Think about it.

Every Christmas Door is an invitation to joy.

  • The joy of being heard and understood
  • The joy of being encouraged
  • The joy of finding needs met
  • The joy of being welcomed
  • The joy of receiving life

How can you open doors to people this holiday season?

Dawn Wilson, founder and President of Heart Choices Today, is a speaker and author, and the creator of three blogs: Heart Choices Today, LOL with God (with Pam Farrel), and Upgrade with Dawn. She is a contracted researcher/reviewer for Revive Our Hearts and a writer at Crosswalk.com. She and her husband Bob live in Southern California and have two grown, married sons, three granddaughters and a rascally maltipoo, Roscoe.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Neely Wang at Lightstock.

 

Thursday
Aug102017

How Well Do YOU Listen?

Becky Harling is one of the most practical women I know, often tackling topics women need to hear like "performance" and dealing with our emotional scripts. In this Relationship UPGRADE, she asks us to honestly evaluate our listening skills.  

 

"I remember well when I asked my teenage daughter, 'Honey, do you think I listen well?' Honestly," Becky says, "I was expecting rave reviews, but what I received was something entirely different"

I (Dawn) think Becky was so brave to ask her teenager for input. But what I admire most is her desire to act on that input!

Becky continues . . .

Mental note to self: Don’t ask your kids what they think unless you’re prepared for the answer!

There was a long pause, and then Bethany said,

“Well… sometimes you listen well… but, you seem distracted a lot, you interrupt me a lot and you dive in with your own story and you give me way too much advice!

"Mom, I just want to feel heard!”

Wow!

That night in bed, I had a lot to consider and I remember wrestling in prayer.

But finally, after several sleepless hours, I prayed,

“Lord, I want my daughter to feel heard and loved. Help me to change. Show me how to work on my listening skills so that those I loved feel heard.”

Author David Augsburger wrote, “Being heard is so close to being loved that they are almost indistinguishable.”

God created us for relationship with Him and with others. And that means we need to value our relationships by listening attentively.

Relational wisdom from Proverbs teaches us, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning” (Proverbs 1:5).

Jesus Himself warned, “Consider carefully how you listen’” (Luke8:18).

Most of us are busy and stressed out, so how do we consider carefully how we listen and take steps to improve our listening skills?

It’s not as hard as you might think. It will take practice, but there are a few steps you can take right away.

Today. 

If you take these simple steps you’ll improve your listening skills immediately and those who are dear to you will feel more loved right away!

Simple Steps:

1. Silence Your Inner Fixer.

Have you noticed how tempting it is to try to fix other people’s problems? I’ll give you a secret. People don’t want you to fix their problems. They want you to listen. They want to feel heard and validated that their situation is difficult and challenging.

So next time, you’re tempted, ask a question instead. Which brings me to my second simple step.

2. Learn how to ask questions.

Any great conversationalist knows how to ask great questions. Jesus Himself was the Master question asker“Who do you say I Am?” “What do you want me to do for you?”—and it’s a pretty easy skill to learn.

Before you meet a friend for coffee, think of three questions you’ll ask so that they’re already in your head. Do the same whenever you attend a meeting where you’ll meet someone new.

Think through a few great questions and even write them on an index card. Then look at the card right before you go into your meeting so the questions will be fresh in your mind. Watch and wait for the opportunity to ask a question.

Hey, if you need help in the question-asking department, I’ve got good news for you! I’ve got a great free gift called, How to Get the Conversation Started up on my website. It’s loaded with great questions you can use in any situation!

3. Let Go of Distractions.

Don’t buy into the myth of multi-tasking. It will hurt your relationships.

When you’re with someone, discipline yourself to be fully present to the conversation.

Turn off or silence your cell phone. Shut down your computer and turn off the T.V. and simply listen to the other person. Seek to understand their heart and what’s behind the words they are speaking. 

The one way it’s valuable to multi-task is to pray for wisdom as the other person is talking. Pray that the Holy Spirit will set a guard over your mouth and help you to speak only what’s helpful.

4. Ask.

Finally, ASK.

Dare to ask at least two people you love, “How well do you think I listen?”

However they reply, don’t push back. Simply receive and then take it to the Lord and ask Him to change you!

Which of these simple steps might UPGRADE your listening skills today? Choose one, and "practice" on your family and friends. Who knows ... the Lord might open new doors to better relationships.

Becky Harling. Authentic. Passionate. Funny. Insightful. Becky is a frequent speaker at conferences, retreats, and other venues. She is the author of Rewriting Your Emotional Script, Freedom from Performing, The 30 Day Praise Challenge and The 30 Day Praise Challenge for Parents. Becky is married to Steve Harling and has four adult kids and five grandkids. Visit her website and blog!

Graphic adapted, courtesty of StockSnap at Pixabay.