by Caitlin Meadows
Everyone wants a boss who is an active listener.
These sorts are a rare commodity, but when you come by one you feel like you’ve hit the career jackpot.
The active listening boss is one who invites conversation. He asks for constructive feedback. She wants to know your ideas. He cares about your personal life. She puts away her devices when you approach her.
A boss like this makes you feel respected and valued. He motivates you to do your job well simply by taking the time and putting in the effort to understand what you communicate.
This isn’t just a boss everyone wants to have. This is a friend, spouse, pastor, and parent everyone wants.
This is a leader worth following.
Is this person you?
You may not have a leadership title, per se, but as a Christ-follower you are a leader. Just by living your life in relationship to others, you are leading each of them to either want or not want to follow you and subsequently, to want or not want to follow the One you follow.
The most practical way in which you lead with your life is through your communication. And a vital aspect of effective communication is listening. But listening is more than just hearing another person.
We hear all sorts of noises each day, but we don’t process every one of them.
Listening actively requires the intention to understand the message being communicated to us to the best of our ability.
Active listening increases your Christian influence because:
Active Listening Communicates Selflessness
The gospel of Jesus Christ depicts the most selfless act in history. Christ gave His life over to death and faced the wrath of the Father for our sin. He suffered our punishment so that we wouldn’t have to. Before He did so, He taught His followers this paradoxical truth about His Kingdom:
…Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. – Matthew 20:26-27
When we give of our time to allow another person to communicate with us we are becoming a servant to that person. We are serving them by showing them through our undivided attention that they are valuable and that we respect their thoughts and needs.
Non-verbal ques like eye contact, nodding, and leaning in when another person is speaking tells them that we are listening. Asking clarifying questions when it is our turn to speak further validates the other person.
Along with selflessness,
Active Listening Communicates Humility
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. – Philippians 2:3
The prideful person assumes s/he knows it all and has nothing left to learn. The humble person sets aside his/her preconceived notions and recognizes that the person communicating likely has something new and beneficial to share.
The prideful person listens to respond, believing that his/her thoughts are more important than the other person’s. The humble person listens to understand, suspending his/her thoughts to better comprehend what the other person is sharing. In this way, the humble person is counting the other as more significant.
It is the humble person with whom others are more willing to be vulnerable. The boss described earlier embodies humility and it is humility that makes this boss so desirable as a leader.
Humility breaks down barriers between individuals, which enables the very purpose of effective communication to be achieved…
Active Listening Cultivates Interpersonal Connection
More simply put, active listening cultivates relationships.
When two people connect on a personal level, they begin to build mutual trust which is the foundation of relationships.
It is nearly impossible to lead someone who doesn’t trust you. But through actively listening, you can earn the trust of others and become a friend they will want to emulate.
When they’re confident following you, they’ll learn of the One who you follow and prayerfully, they will choose to follow Him as well.
The problem with active listening is that each of us fails at it daily. To intentionally become an active listener and thus, a better leader for Christ, we must accept that,
Active Listening is a Skill that Christ Enables us to Develop
Like with all aspects of the Christian life, we must surrender to Christ to be enabled by His grace to reflect Him. This means accepting that in and of ourselves, we cannot become like Him – selfless and humble in our various relationships.
In and of ourselves, we cannot master the skill of active listening for the sake of becoming active leaders.
As I’ve taken the time to write this post, I’ve become convicted of my own failures in my relationships to be the active listener and leader that God calls me to be. I often selfishly choose to check my phone while my husband is telling me about his day, let my mind wander to my mental to-do list while my sister shares her latest news with me over the phone, and struggle to maintain eye contact with the person greeting me at church because I’m distracted with the temptation to look around and see who else is present.
But this conviction is good. It reminds me that I need to surrender again and again to the Lord so that I can deny my natural selfish tendencies and embrace the character of Jesus Christ.
With us, consistently serving others through active listening is impossible. But with Him, nothing is impossible that He desires for us.
So we can relax, release the pressure we feel to achieve, and simply surrender to our King.
Acknowledging our own inadequacy and His might, we embrace the desire He’s given us to glorify Him with our lives. In surrender, you and I can allow Him to enable us to hone the skill of active listening as He uses us to point the people in our lives right back to Him.
Are you wondering where to start in evaluating this aspect of your communication skills? Are you desiring to become a more active leader in your daily life? Download Artios Christian College’s free guide on Discovering Your Leadership Strengths.