Listen, Don’t Link

One of the biggest blessings we have is a friend who knows how to deeply listen and encourage us to share those things that are bothering us. It is conversations with this kind of friend that leave us feeling at peace, appreciated, supported. I’ve often wondered what it is that allows some people guide a conversation so skillfully. I cherish those friends deeply and hope one day to become better at being that kind of friend.

To understand that a little better, let’s think about a time when we so desperately needed to share a concern with someone, but left the conversation feeling unheard and somewhat disrespected. What happened? Where did the conversation get off track?

I read an article in this month’s issue of Tabletalk magazine that opened my eyes to one of the most frequent mistakes we can make in our conversations. In his article titled “Seizing the Moment in Conversation” Joe Holland said that getting to the issue of someone’s problem isn’t hard at all, if we are actually listening during the conversation. “People’s concerns and worries aren’t buried; they are right there on the surface of what they are saying. When someone talks to you, pay attention to the topics that the person talks about and what anxieties or problems he mentions. Don’t assume that it is just small talk. Most of the time, even in what we think is casual conversation, we are all mentioning our deepest concerns and floating our biggest fears.”

Think about this. Your friend says to you “Our daughter is going on her first date this weekend and I’m just not ready for it.” How would you respond? I think most of us, if we’ve already gone through that period in our child’s life, would automatically say something about our child’s first date and how well it went, proving our worry was unfounded. We turn the conversation to ourselves and miss the opportunity for a deeper, more meaningful conversation with our friend. It’s that type of response that leaves our friend feeling unheard. Holland calls this “self-centered linking.”

Now, think again about the conversation with that friend who left you feeling appreciated and supported. How would she respond to a friend mentioning her daughter’s first date? I imagine the response would be something like “Oh, wow, that’s a milestone in a young person’s life. It sounds like you might be a little worried about her taking this step.” That response opens the door for the mother to share more of why she’s not ready for it, which could lead to a better understanding of your friend and her needs in that moment.

As Christians, we are called to bear one another’s burdens. (Gal 6:2) To do this, we really need to listen unselfishly in our conversations, truly hear what is being shared with us. Listen, don’t link.

My prayer is that God would work in us to help us become that friend who truly hears the needs of others and bears the burdens of our friends lovingly.

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” Proverbs 27:9

1 thought on “Listen, Don’t Link

  1. This is a wonderful reminder of the importance of truly listening and being present for our friends. Thank you for sharing!
    founder of balance thy life

    Liked by 1 person

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