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I’m part of a Facebook group filled with ministry and business leaders. A post shocked me the other day. A man wrote:

My church is cutting my job due to budget cuts. They asked me to make a list of companies that perform my function before I leave. Any companies I should add to my list?

It didn’t surprise me that the guy was losing his job. That happens all the time. It didn’t even surprise me that his heart was so for the church that he was willing to create a list like this.

What shocked me were the responses to his post. It was filled with people offering their services. It was like dropping fish food into a packed fish tank – a feeding frenzy. But nobody seemed to acknowledge the pain this guy must be going through.

That’s the risk we run when we don’t properly listen to people. We rush to judgment and hear what we want to hear, instead of what people are actually saying. The thing is:

People bury their pain in what they say.

We just have to be willing to listen. When we do, we have a unique opportunity to impact them; we’ll be the only one actually listening. Here’s how you can become a better listener.

1. Re-visit what they said before answering.

The first time I read that guy’s post, the “any companies I should add” is what stood out to me. But when I re-read it, I realized he that wasn’t actually the main point of his post. It sure seemed like it was, but it wasn’t.

2. Find what they’re really saying.

Really, he just needed some sympathy for his plight. He wanted someone to understand his situation. Perhaps he actually wanted some company recommendations, but that wasn’t the main point.

3. Speak to the heart.

When I fully listened, I was able to offer a sympathetic response. You can bet the only one who has a real chance to influence that man’s life is me. I was able to offer encouragement, and actually establish somewhat of a relationship with him.

The world is filled with people who will offer their opinion. Who will look for a chance to get ahead. Who will hear only what applies to them.

There are few who will actually listen. Will you be one of the few? Or one of the many?