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The Art of Listening

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Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. James 1:19, NLT

Every counselor knows a big part of the job is listening. We are talking Counseling 101. We may remember the first time we sat in our mock counseling appointment and were tasked with the job of restating. Or, we recall the first time a client walked in the room and we had to focus to remember all of the facts. Listening is basic when it comes to the art of counseling.

But does that mean we do it well?

Before we refresh on the art of listening, let us consider again the crucial value of listening. God makes it very clear in the following verses.

Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18:13, NLT

Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions. Proverbs 18:2

For the counselor, we are faced with a choice every time we sit with the sacred soul who has entered our office. Will we take the path of wisdom or tread the path of a fool? Without Jesus, we are bent towards foolishness. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, our natural leaning is to lean on our own “wisdom” and understanding.

Listen to the Holy Spirit.

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. John 14:26  

As Jesus walked the earth, He gave us these wonderful words of hope. Before we can teach or counsel anyone, we must first be taught and counseled by God. As a Christ follower, we must never underestimate the importance of talking to God and listening to what He has to say. This means before we sit down with a person, we pray. As we consider the direction for a session, we pray. As we explore homework options and assignments for the married couple or individual, we pray. Then we carefully make our plans and trust God to direct our steps.

We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps. Proverbs 16:9 

Listen to the Bible.

We cannot be reminded of what we do not know. As counselors, we must never neglect the bountiful treasure of God’s Word for our own lives. In our personal devotion, not only will God move and transform our lives, but so often the very words helping us will apply to the person we have the privilege to counsel. I’m convinced God is a magnificent multitasker! We must put ourselves in position to benefit from all of God’s amazing wisdom and guidance.

Listen to the Person.

Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Proverbs 2:2

From the wealth of these few verses (so many more reside in the pages of scripture), God gives us clear guidance on the art of listening.

Slow down your words. Quicken your ears to hear. This includes the words formulating in your brain as the person is talking. Go back to those days of learning to restate. “What I hear you saying is . . .” can prove to be one of the most helpful listening tools in your counseling toolbox. Concentrate to not only listen but also understand what is being said. With the Holy Spirit and Holy Bible as your guide, carefully ask questions and seek to hear and understand the messages behind a client’s story or statement.

Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. Proverbs 12:15

As we master the art of listening, we pray our clients will follow in kind. With humble hearts, we provide an atmosphere of valuing the thoughts and feelings of another. We pray for the hurting person to have ears to hear and a heart to gain understanding as together we receive the healing and help that comes from God alone. Sometimes there’s great value in going back to the basics as we master the art of listening.




Posted on March 17, 2016