[featured_image]”Do people think you are a good listener?”

That’s a great question! Whether you are coaching someone, just being a friend, engaged in a missional conversation, or discipling someone, listening is a critical skill to develop. Good coaches practice active listening. Good disciplemakers are good listeners. Great leaders are great listeners. Are you?

My friend
+Kirk Anderson recently recommended that I read First Among Equalsby McKenna and Maister. They start chapter 6: “Listen to Build Rapport” with the above question. I think listening is such an important skills for coaches, leaders, pastors, friends, spouses and disciplemakers to develop.

You probably think of yourself as a reasonably good listener. But if you were to ask those you work with for their candid feedback, what would they really say? You might be pleasantly surprised, but all too often the people we work with say that we need to work on our listening skills. And some may say we really need to work on them. (p. 75)

What Good Listeners Do
The following list of good listening habits actually comes from David Maister’s
The Trusted Advisor. I chose my top 20 from their list below. Consider which of these you are doing well and which you need to develop…

  1. Probe for clarification.
  2. Listen for unvoiced emotions.
  3. Listen for their story.
  4. Summarize well.
  5. Empathize.
  6. Listen for what’s different, not for what’s familiar.
  7. Take it all seriously (they don’t say, “you shouldn’t worry about that”).
  8. Spot hidden assumptions.
  9. Let the other person “get it out of his or her system.”
  10. Ask, “How do you feel about that?”
  11. Keep the other person talking (“What else have you considered?)
  12. Keep asking for more detail that helps them understand.
  13. Get rid of distractions while listening.
  14. Focus on hearing your version first.
  15. Let you tell your story your way.
  16. Stand in your shoes, at least while they’re listening.
  17. Ask what you’ve thought of before telling you what they’ve thought of.
  18. Make it seem as if the other person is the only thing that matters and that they have all the time in the world.
  19. Encourage by nodding head or giving a slight smile.
  20. Show awareness and control of body movement (no moving around, shaking legs, fiddling with a paper clip).

I love this list! How many did you pass? How many do the people in your life think you pass? (Ask them: you may be surprised!)

Active listening is critical for all of us. When you listen actively, you try to understand what someone is feeling or what his or her message means. Then, you put this understanding of the message into your own words, and feed it back to the individual for verification. You do not send a message of your own; you feed back only what your colleague’s message meant. Active listening, like any skill, can be learned and improved with practice. (p. 77)

Today’s Missional Challenge

Evaluate your listening skills based on the 20 Things Good Listeners Do above. Choose 3-5 areas to work on with someone this week.

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