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If we want to build good relationships, we need to become good listeners. And in order to be a good listener, we must do these things: 1) Listen without interrupting. And that holds even when we know more than the person who’s talking to us. Respect them enough to value their opinion (which doesn’t mean we have to agree with them), and listen attentively until they’re finished. 2) Try to understand their point of view, feelings, thinking, and needs. In other words, listen to understand. Good listening is hearing what people actually think, mean, or feel, not what we imagine they should think, mean, or feel. Instead of guessing, politely ask, ‘Am I understanding you correctly? Do you mean…? Are you feeling…?’ Don’t assume – always check. 3) Avoid rushing to conclusions. Listen without judging. If what they say doesn’t quite add up, keep listening. ‘To answer before listening – that is folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13 NIV). When more of the story comes out, it might start to make sense. 4) Avoid putting them on the defensive. Listen without correcting, jumping in, or devaluing. Saying, ‘That’s not what happened,’ or ‘What did you expect?’ or ‘You’re just being silly and too sensitive’ kills real communication. 5) Accept their perceptions and feelings as valid expressions of a valued person. Validate the speaker. Saying, ‘If I understand correctly, you’re thinking or feeling this way…is that right?’ Ask them to help you get on the same page with them. Saying, ‘From what you’ve told me, I can see why you’d feel that way’ will increase their willingness to consider our thoughts and accept any advice or solutions we might offer. Listening is a great gift, so let’s get better at listening.

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