Truly Understanding Others

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by Dan Weyerhaeuser, Senior Pastor

“YES! That’s exactly what I’m feeling!”

Almost involuntarily, these words fly out of the mouth of a person when a listener clearly communicates that they have been heard, which is then almost always followed by more and more transparent sharing.

One of the great gifts we give to people is time; listening to them. It is a rare gift these days, and an incredible gift. Listening is also a strategic way we build bridges of trust across which people travel in connecting with us and Christ. If you will develop as a listener, you will develop as an influencer.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in helping people get better at listening, is convincing them that they need to work at this skill. Most of us assume we are great listeners. Perhaps a question we should all ask ourselves is this: do people frequently seek us out to talk with us? Often when people feel heard, they want more. Do you find people moving towards you, wanting to share? Would you want people to seek you out more often than they do? If so, our R.E.A.D. conversation strategy will help you.

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R.E.A.D. describes verbal listening skills. That may sound counterintuitive, when you are listening, aren’t you supposed to be silent? No. R.E.A.D describes things you say to communicate that you are listening. We begin to R.E.A.D. people well when we (R) repeat what they have said before we respond. “So you nailed a test?!” “It sounds like you are really confused.” “You’ve been connecting better with your kids.” These are all things I’ve said in the last 24 hours to friends to whom I was listening.

The key (especially when you are communicating with someone in conflict) is that you have to keep repeating what they have said until they agree that you have accurately repeated what they have said. Too often in conflict we sort of repeat what is said, but only partially. The truth is, while the other person was talking, we were “re-loading.” But when you R.E.A.D. someone, you begin by giving all of your attention to listening, and you repeat what they are saying until they agree that you got it.

This will do six things.

Repeating their words until they agree you got it…

  1. Makes you a distinct friend, because it is hard in this world to find people who will listen.
  2. Builds trust because you are honoring them enough to take in and understand what they are saying, which an expression of love.
  3. Assures you and them that you actually are listening and then responding to to what they are actually saying rather than what they are not saying.
  4. Heals a person – it is healing to just tell your story and be heard, and this is a way you communicate you “heard” them.
  5. Puts you in a place for compassion to rise in you because compassion is our automatic response to experiencing with another person what they are experiencing. Taking in what another person is sharing is how you enter into what they are experiencing.
  6. Is an exercise in putting others before yourself and “giving.” Our natural instinct (unless we are a person who often “hides”) is to want to be heard. You are loving like Jesus when you listen, and you give Jesus a lot to work with through you!

Getting practical: By the end of today, try three times to repeat back to someone what you heard them say, and listen for the “Yes!” come.

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