Tag Archives: listen

The Listening Gift

There’s a popular talk show hostess that I like to watch. For the most part, I like her show. But she’s a terrible interviewer. The guests rarely get to finish a sentence before she  interrupts to make her commentary, clever comment, or to go off on her own related experience.

Another show—this one hosted by a well-respected news analyst—is even worse. Mainly, I agree with his opinions. But when he asks his guest a question, he or she rarely gets to finish with a well-thought out reply before the host begins to talk over the speaker. It leaves me muttering, “I tuned in to the show because I wanted to hear what the guest had to say. I already know what you (host’s name) think.”

I think we all tend to do what the talk show host and the news analyst do…from time to time. I’ve caught myself interrupting in conversations, too.

I try not to make it a habit. When I was little my mother frequently scolded me and my siblings with a “Don’t interrupt!”

The art of listening is becoming rare today. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a conversation with someone who actually behaved as if what you had to say was interesting?

Wouldn’t it be great to to meet someone who was sincerely interested in you?

Most of us, I suspect, would gladly trade a few of our Christmas presents for a half hour conversation with someone where it was actually a conversation, a give and take, a “so what are you thinking about these days?” sort of dialogue.

Wouldn’t that make a great Christmas present to give to someone on your list?

Here’s how I would package my “gift,” using the word “ALTER” to remember my decision to listen well:

Ask a sincere question. (Not just “how are you?)

Listen (without injecting my own story.)

Train myself to stay focused. (Politely hold off any potential well-meaning interrupters)

Empathy (Mirror the speaker’s mood)

Related question. (Shows I am listening and comprehending the speaker.)

The best Christmas gift
The best Christmas gift

My time and my attention are a great gift to someone who needs a listening ear.

This Christmas I’ll be talking to skads of people. May the Lord help me to remember ALTER each time a friend starts to talk to me!


I think the American church has lost the skill or gift of showing hospitality. It seems years ago, we were all visiting neighbors, and providing meals and inviting new attenders of the church to come over for a get-acquainted meal.

Now, it hardly ever happens. I don’t know why, because there’s really nothing very difficult about showing hospitality.

Go ahead. Put your tech stuff away. (You won’t die!) Turn off the TV. (You can always record your favorite show.)

Hospitality can be as easy as this:

“Hey, you’re new. Wanna come on over for lunch? Naw, you don’t have to bring anything. We’re just cooking brats on the barbecue. You can? Great! Here’s our address.”


“Hey, I’m so glad you moved onto our block. Wanna come on over for tea sometime? You’re free? Great! How about tomorrow?”

When your guest(s) arrives, here are some great conversation starters:

  • How did you two meet?
  • What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done?
  • Where all have you lived?
  • Where were you born?
  • What kind of work do you do?

I’m sure you can think of your own questions. People love to talk about themselves. And they’ll remember you for expressing an interest in them. (Just make sure that when you ask your questions you’re prepared to listen!) Who knows? You may have just begun a wonderful and rewarding friendship.

I think a lot of Christians think that ministry and serving is all about doing some great and glorious preaching, or going to Haiti, or giving humongous amounts of money, or running a soup kitchen.

But one of the grandest things we can do for God’s Kingdom is simply show an interest in others. You probably wouldn’t know it when you see people pass by. But most—maybe all of them—yearn for someone to take an interest in them.

I know. At times—such as7-20-11 010 when we move and start going to a new church— I’ve been one of those people.

“Practice hospitality.” (Romans 12:13 NIV Bible)


7 Conversational Skills

Our culture has changed a lot in the past twenty  years. Some of the changes are positive. Some, not.

Some of the negative changes, I believe, have to do with the lack of little kindnesses that our parents and our grandparents learned about conversation, and showed to their friends and acquaintances.

Here are seven important conversational skills you can practice that will make people absolutely love to be around you:

  1. Don’t barge in. When you see two friends in a conversation, wait until it’s appropriate to join them. They may be in the middle of a very private, or sensitive conversation. If you barge in, they may greet you politely, but at least one of those friends—usually the one who was talking—may be exasperated by your intrusion.
  2. Be fair. Many people aren’t aware of how they habitually dominate conversations. Are you one of them? Ask someone who will tell you the truth. If you are indeed a conversation hog, stop it!
  3. When it’s the other person’s turn to talk, do your eyes glaze over because the topic isn’t about you or yours? That shows a lack of love for the talker. Ask Jesus, the Master conversationalist, to help you love as He loves.
  4. When someone shares a new challenge or struggle, please don’t turn it around so that you are now talking about your own struggle. You may not see the resentment on your friend’s face, but, believe me, it’s there!
  5. Be interested, sincerely interested in the other person. Ask questions. When you see him or her again, refer back to your conversation and how you appreciated what the other person shared with you.
  6. Don’t give advice unless it’s requested.
  7. Discretion. Never share what the other has shared with you in confidence.

There you go. We all know people who break all of these suggestions, and others who exemplify a great conversationalist.

Wanna be be a valued communicator? Examine your conversational style and work to change your negative habits.

None of us is a perfect conversationalist. I’m not, for sure. But we can all improve, little by little.30th Wedding Anniversary013