If you asked most of us if we know how to show love to our husbands, our kids, our family and friends, we’d probably say yes! It’s natural when we love someone to perform acts of service to help them out when they need it. We wash the dishes for our family, make lunches for our kids (and maybe husbands), and maybe even take meals to our neighbors who are sick. We do all this to show love.
Similarly, we may show love by choosing special gifts for others. We send a card to a grieving church member or pick out the perfect baby present for a pregnant friend. At the store, we buy the cereal our husband really likes and the ingredients for a special recipe our kids enjoy. Large or small, these gifts are an expression of our love to others.
Yet, we often neglect a very basic—and often so elusive—way to express love to others. Listening. By listening, I don’t mean letting people talk and just nodding your head and grunting every 20 seconds or so.
Sometimes we basically let someone talk, but really ignore them and just think our own thoughts while they are left “babbling.” Other times, we spend the whole time while they are talking thinking of what we intend to say next. In our friendships, we need to be careful that we don’t monopolize the conversations so that we spend all our time talking and our friend does all the listening. I’ve experienced times when I listen to a friend share consistently, but within seconds of sharing something from my heart, they end the conversation. Many of us are guilty of this self-focused conversation hogging.
Instead, I mean really listening to others. Listening is not passive. It is an active and engaged way to show love. Here are some listening tips to apply in your every relationship. Consider how to show more respect and love to your husband, kids, friends, church members, neighbors, and even God this year by spending a little less time talking and a little more time listening.
- If you are face to face with the person you are talking with, be sure to show with your eyes and body language that you are really focused on what they are saying.
- Don’t think of what you are going to say next while someone is talking! Discipline your mind to focus on what they have to say.
- Practice the discipline of “speech stewardship.” Talk less and make sure what you have to say actually matters. It will give your words more value and allow others to talk more!
- Be willing to engage in the give and take of conversation. If your friend has listened to you for 20 minutes as you talk over a problem, don’t cut them off as soon as they start to talk.
- Learn to talk about yourself less and ask more questions of the other person.
- Remember what you are being told. Later on, when you recall details of what someone told you, it will show them that you really were listening.
- Don’t criticize or discount advice that you are given. Many times we don’t want advice when we complain to someone else. We automatically tell people, “That won’t work” when they offer up an idea. Next time, try thanking them for their counsel and really considering and praying about it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame” (ESV).
- Don’t interrupt or rush to finish people’s sentences. Give them the freedom to talk without you cutting them off or showing your impatience.
- Minimize distractions as much as you can—don’t check your cell phone for text messages, teach your kids how to interrupt you only in an emergency, etc. If someone is really sharing something sensitive, choose not to answer another phone call coming through Call Waiting.
All these things can help you listen as an act of love!