November 26, 2016
The question was unusual. And on target.
It came from a person faced with a pastoral task of hearing others confess their fears, their dreads, their disputes with others, their anxieties about the future.
At a recent gathering of “young-ish clergy” who are encouraged to help us all be the church by thinking and imagining some ways outside the proverbial box, this younger pastor asked “Can someone teach us how to listen better?”
She thought it might be a strange question to ask. But think about it a minute.
If we are to have any influence in the thinking and values of another person, if we expect our own experiences, studies, and convictions to have traction with others, it is essential that the other know first that s/he has been heard and respected.
You know that from your own experience. Defensiveness is natural when our ideas and feelings are ignored or dissed. Thinking gets shuttered and convictions begin to harden. Dialogue dissolves into diatribe.
Listening is a skill. Some seem naturally great at it. Most of us have to work to be effective listeners. Effective listening captures both the words, and more importantly, the feelings of the other person, feeds back what we think we are hearing so it can be corrected if necessary, before we attempt to offer our own perspectives. The younger pastor was right about needing help, even training, in better listening skills. We especially need to understand more about the things we do which create roadblocks to careful responsible listening.
When her question was shared with me, I immediately contacted some “experts” who teach listening skills. I also looked for a source of funding to pay for a one-day all-day listening skills workshop for anyone anywhere in the Ohio Conference.
So here is a way you can help make it happen. Respond to this “Hmmmm….of the month” by indicating if you would participate in a full day’s interactive practice session on how to be an effective listener. What about cost? It will be a gift of the Ohio Conference. Your expense is to commit to a day’s study and practice of the shared skills; cover the cost of travel and meals, and lodging if you stay overnight (which is not a requirement). The consultants/trainers’ fees and expenses will be paid by the Conference.
How about it? Let me know you would be willing to receive this gift. How about sometime in January (maybe close to the presidential inauguration?) or not later than February?
I’ll look for your comments below.