Posts Tagged ‘Listening’


Use your words to build people up.  Ephesians 4:29 “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

When I was in college the janitorial company I worked for was hired to tear down a wall in an apartment and then clean it up.  I had never done anything like that before.  I didn’t know how to start so I asked supervisor for instructions.  He said, take this sledge hammer and hit this wall until there is nothing left to hit.  I had more fun that day that is lawful in the state of Mississippi!  It’s fun to tear things down. 

Sometimes with our words it’s like a sledgehammer, no planning, no thinking.  We swing away and all of a sudden we look around and all we’ve got is a pile of rubble, relational rubble.  When you just swing away with your words and tear people down inevitably your relationships are going to suffer.  Words are the single most important tool given to man by God.  Without a doubt! 

One of the reasons we’re not constructive with our words is we don’t realize how powerful this tool is, our mouth.  We say things without thinking.  People remember them.  The things people have said to you in a thoughtless way it may have been as far back as grade school or college or when you first started working.  You still remember some of those things.  That’s how powerful words are.  So when it comes to your mouth, think of it as a power tool and be very careful with it.

Here are directions for the use of a power tool I bought several years ago. I was struck by how it related to the use of another power tool that God has given us – our mouth. 

  • Know your power tool.
  • Keep guards in place.
  • Be careful around children.
  • Store idle tools when not in use.
  • Don’t over reach
  • Never use in an explosive atmosphere.

It fits how we are to use this mouth which is an incredible tool to build people up.

How can I start using it more carefully so instead of destroying with it, I’m building and constructing relationships with it? 

1.  Stop excusing.  Stop saying, “I didn’t really mean to say that.”  or “It’s just that blood sugar dip before lunch.  That’s all it was.”  Stop excusing and realize that what you say is impacting everybody around you.         

2.  Talk less.  If it’s a power tool – you don’t have to use it as much.  Talk less.  One of the reasons we get in trouble is we just talk too much sometimes.  We talk before we think.  We need to talk less and…

 3.  Listen more.  If I listen more I can understand people’s needs.  One of the small lessons of life that makes an incredible impact on the way you and I use our words. 

 4.  Start building.  Think first of all, “what do they need?”  How can I use a word of encouragement to build them up?  How can I use a word of challenge to make a difference in their life?  How can I use my words to build the people that I love the most?

When it comes to social interactions, I have what is known as a Melancholy temperament.  This means that interacting socially for me with people outside of my closest friends and family is somewhat stressful.  I did not know this about myself until recently.  However, one thing I have always known is that I have always felt awkward talking with people I don’t know very well.  I have on too many occasions walked away from social conversations saying to myself, “That was a stupid thing to say.” 

It would be very selfish of me to just not speak to people or to stay home all the time and never venture out to parties or situations where casual conversation is expected.  Beyond that, part of the mission of a Christian is to share the good news of Christ with the world.  You just can’t do that without stepping out and speaking up. 

Two thoughts have helped me with this:

  1. As a Christian, I have the Spirit of God living in me and He is wisdom. Did you catch that?  He is wisdom.  Not, He has wisdom… He is wisdom!  I have wisdom in perfect form living within me.  If I am tuned in to the Spirit living in me, I never have to worry about what to say.  I never need to be intimidated by the person I am talking to because if he or she is wise, their wisdom came from the same Spirit living in me.
  2. Being a good conversationalist is not primarily about saying the right thing but responding the right way to what the other person is saying.  I think Mr. Carnegie has is right in his HOW TO WIN FRIENDS AND INFLUENCE PEOPLE.  He says that if you want people to walk away from a conversation with you thinking, “Wow, he’s a good conversationalist,” you need to learn the art of listening.  I once read that God has given us a picture of how this is suppose to work by giving us two ears and only one mouth.  I hope to explore the fine art of listening in the days ahead. 

Let me know what you think about this or any of my other posts.  I’m listening!

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You can’t do business without communicating. That means to get ahead you’ve got to continually work on your communication skills. It has been estimated that 75% of the problems at work are related to poor communication — with customers, clients and co-workers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

To Effectively Communicate, We Must Give Up Three Things:

I. Give up our assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is everything you hear goes through filters. Your filters are determined by your past experiences, your unique personality and your temperament. You may not be hearing what they are actually saying. Therefore, it is smart (and safe!) to ask for clarification. There are six possible messages every time you speak:

A. What you meant to say versus what you actually said

B. What they heard versus what they think they heard

C. What they say about something versus what you think they said about it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

II. Give up our accusations. You will never get your point across by being cross! Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and that destroys communication. Here are four most common forms of accusation:

A. Exaggerating: making sweeping generalities. Statements like “You always” and “You never” are always untrue, and never helpful.

B. Labeling: derogatory name calling. Labeling, even when it’s true, never changes anyone. It only reinforces a negative behavior.

C. Playing Historian: bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.

D. Asking Negative Loaded Questions: ones that can’t really be answered, like, “Can’t you do anything right?” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

III. Give up our apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest — real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. No matter what price we pay for relational freedom, it is worth the price. Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

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The goals of relational King of the Hill are:

  • To take charge of other people, and to take charge of them without their permission.
  • To order the world around you the way you want it, with little regard for the feelings of the other people in your life.
  • To seize and maintain the upper hand in relational interactions.
  • To maintain your position by pushing others away when they challenge your territory.

In other words, you come to the point where you are convinced that your way of doing things – including relationships – is superior to everyone else’s; that there isn’t a whole lot left for you to learn on the subject; and even if there was, it doesn’t really matter because you are strong enough to make everyone around you submit to your way.


If we are ever going to quit playing the King of the Hill game we must ask God to help us lose our pride and self-sufficiency and to humble us. We must admit the truth about ourselves, that we are masters of the game, and then turn from it. This is the foundation of change.

Once that attitude is established, there are some things we can start to do differently.

1. Become a student of people and relationships.

2. Get to the point where these three phrases fall freely from our lips:

  • “I was wrong.”
  • “Please forgive me.”
  • “I love you.”

Why are these phrases so important? They are words of humility and dependence – exactly the opposite of the pride and self-sufficiency.

3. Use your ears more than you use your mouth.

This takes the focus off of self and puts it onto others.

4. Give the lead position to others whenever possible.

Learn that you won’t die if you aren’t the king.

5. Start relying on God more than self-effort.

Remember that the reason we play the game is because we feel insufficient, and so we overcompensate to make up for it. This root must be destroyed in us.

After Nebuchadnezzar had his sanity restored, his life was more characterized by these behaviors than by King of the Hill behaviors. And you know what happened? Buried there towards the end of the passage is this little phrase …

The hope and promise for all of us who will give up the game. Is that we will attract others instead of driving them away. It won’t happen overnight, but with God’s help, it will happen.

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Posted: August 2, 2010 in Advice
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Probably a better title would have probably been TAKING ADVICE because getting advice doesn’t lead to wisdom.  Those with wisdom know how to seek out the right kind of advice, and have the ability to take advice.

Actually, getting advice is easy. All you have to do is go to Wal-Mart with a baby. People will stop you and tell you how to raise it. In mid-July they’ll say things to you like, “I can’t believe you brought that baby out without a coat on!” or “If you let that baby suck her thumb like that she’ll get buck-teeth.” You get the idea.

Another easy way to get advice is to coach a little league team. Even though the team has won two consecutive championships, there are always more than a few people who think they know better how to put a winning team together. (Their advice usually involved more playing time for their kid.)

The point is: There’s tons of advice out there, and plenty of people more than willing to offer it to you. The problem is this: most unsolicited advice is worth what you paid for it. And taking the wrong advice can get you in trouble.

If you are in the process of getting it together and keeping it together, you will need to fine-tune the art of taking advice. Everyone needs advice, and the book of Proverbs tells us it is absolutely essential to take advice in order to succeed in life. Solomon said…

Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.

Proverbs 12:15 The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

I offer three pieces of advice (couldn’t resist) that will help you know how to get good advice and use it. First of all, when you seek advice, you have to…

1. Be Selective.

Proverbs 14:7 (NLT) Stay away from fools, for you won’t find knowledge on their lips.  In other words, stay away from people who want to tell you how to run an area of your life that they’re unable to manage themselves. For instance, you don’t ask me how to do home improvements. Before you go to someone for advice, this is what you need to look for…

a. Look for someone who’s “been there, done that”
Find someone who faced the same kind of challenge you’re facing now—and faced it successfully. And then ask them how they did it.

b. Find someone who has your best interests at heart.
When you ask for advice, you are putting yourself in somewhat of a vulnerable position. You need to be sure this person has your best interests at heart, that he or she isn’t advising you with a self-serving, hidden agenda.

2. Be Receptive.

One of the main reasons we hesitate to ask for advice is that we are afraid of hearing what we don’t want to hear.

In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said… It is better to be a poor but wise youth than to be an old and foolish king who refuses all advice. Ecclesiastes 4:13 TLB

The biggest mistakes I have made in my life are the decisions I made unadvisedly. The greatest challenges I face right now can be traced to a stubborn refusal to seek good advice. Solomon said… The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.

When you seek advice, you have to be completely open to the advice you’re about to receive. Be willing consider the counsel even if you don’t want to hear. When it comes to getting advice, you need to be selective, you need to be receptive, and thirdly, you need to…

3. Be Objective
You’ve got to understand that no one person in the world has all the answers. There’s not one human person you can go to for advice on everything, all the time. Besides, getting advice isn’t about letting other people make your decisions for you. Getting advice is the process of getting an objective view of your problem so that you can make the right decision. The decision you make belongs to you. Even if you follow someone’s advice, it doesn’t absolve you of responsibility for your actions. It’s your decision. You’re the one that has to live with the consequences. So you better make sure you have an objective view of your situation.

You have to live with it. You have to face the consequences and/or reap the rewards. So make sure you get an objective view of the problem.  

As you can see, going to a counselor or asking a friend for advice is just about the greatest compliment you could offer someone. So, make sure the person is deserving of the compliment.

I urge to seek advice before trying to tackle any major problem or decision on your own. And when you seek advice, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

• Has this person “been there done that”?
• Does this person have my best interests at heart?
• Will this person tell me what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear?
• Can this person be one of a group of trusted friends to help me develop an objective view of my life?

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1. Sharpen Your Arguing Skills

I really hope you didn’t think that you and your teenager would never have conflict.  Conflict is okay. It’s part of the maturation process for them and you.  Your teen’s growing independence is naturally going to cause him to question your values? I still don’t see eye to eye with my parents on everything (Don’t tell them ’cause I’m not sure they know).

Conflict happens. Why not use those times as an opportunity to develop your teen’s independent thinking. You will also be allowing them time to process your side of the argument. They’ll never place value in your side until you at least validate their right to theirs.

Here’s what I am saying: don’t allow conflicts to hinder your relationship with your teen. It’s okay to have a heated discussion from time to time. But scripture reminds us to “Be angry, but don’t sin.” I would suggest the following boundaries for arguing;

  • Never, never, ever let an argument get physical.
  • Never be disrespectful to each other.
  • Never be demeaning.
  • Know when to call a time out to allow emotions calm down. Resume the discussion on more respectful terms.

Even if neither mind has changed, end the argument on a loving note.  A good way to do that is to make a rule that every argument must end with a hug. That’s the goal. Even if you can’t agree, you are the grown up, and you can at least agree to disagree because it was all talked out.

2. Continue To Engage Your Teen

Have you ever heard a parent say, “Just get out of my sight?” I hate to be the one to break this to you but that is a MISTAKE!  That may be ok until everyone has had a chance to cool off and respect is restored but ongoing avoidance will only serve to build walls between you and your child. Instead, by engaging in discussion you will let your teen know you’ll continue to love them and spend time together even though there is a disagreement.

I have shared this with the kind congregation at Wahoo a number of times because of its impact.  A young couple went to a toy store to by a gift for their child.  When they engaged the sales clerk they told her that they were looking for a toy that will keep their child busy and be educational.  They told the clerk that they want the child to be able to love and hold the toy when she gets afraid or lonely.  After showing the couple several toys, the frustrated clerk told them that she was afraid that she would not be able to help them.  She said, “It sounds to me that what you are trying to find are parents and we don’t sell those here!”

Kids need to know that you are there for them even through the stormy waters of rebellion.  Make sure you are scheduling time for them in your day and engaging them in conversation.

3.  Model Positive Problem Solving Skills

Life is not a TV sitcom where major life problems are solved in an hour or less.  For the most part, teens are somewhat limited in their ability to solve problems. They often don’t have the maturity to unravel life’s bigger issues, and they don’t understand how to change their behavior in ways that are beneficial to them. That’s where a parent comes in. Demonstrating your own resources for managing frustration is one good way to teach your teen how to handle their frustration. Tell them how you go about solving problems at work, or with your spouse. Let them know you need God’s help, and that you don’t have all the answers. Help them learn how to use different behavior as a way to solve their own problems or to change their situation for the better.

4. Choose Your Words Carefully

Don’t set yourself up for failure by the words you use. Avoid words like “you” or “always.” Speak in broader, less offensive terms. Be more open to what you will and will not support. I know you’ve probably heard this but I am going to remind you of it: pick your battles carefully.

I read this just today. Be clear on your limits. Don’t say, “It’s your choice,” or “What do you think?” It is better to say, “Here are my limits…what I will and won’t allow in this situation. Then take some time to explore their needs and ideas and try to find a way to meet each other halfway, listening more and talking less.

5. Let Them Know You Are Stubborn With Your Love For Them

I guess what I am saying is (and here’s that word again) model before them God’s love.  Teens need to know that there is nothing they can do to make you love them any less and there is nothing they can do to love them any more than you have always loved them. I did my internship for my doctorate at a nearby children’s home. The one problem most kid’s I counseled dealt with was feeling like a failure.  The relationship with their parents was performance based and they felt as if they could never perform up to their parent’s expectations.  So they gave up.  Try a “grace based” relationship instead of performance based.  They need to know that they have your unconditional love, acceptance and worth.

Conflict, when handled properly, can improve relationships rather than tear them down. You can be certain that your teen will have conflict with their future college room-mate, their future spouse, a future employer, and even their future children (turnabout is fair play- Cha Ching!). So, engaging with your teen in conflict now is more about teaching them how to manage conflict in the future and less about who wins today’s argument.

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Someone once said that communication is more than merely talking; it is combining the power of words with the power of the ear to create a soul connection.

 James the brother of Jesus gave us some very valuable teaching on how to communicate effectively. He said, “Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” I am convinced that a sincere commitment on the part of two individuals to apply James’ teaching in any relationship will bring about a significant improvement.   Great communication is essential to a great relationship because when we are communicating well we feel close and intimate and when we are not communicating well we generally feel distant and cold. 

It has been my experience that couples who are experiencing a break down in the area of communication have this formula mixed up; they are quick to speak and slow to listen and as a result they are quick to become angry!

Some time back I made a “Listening Button” that I keep in my desk drawer for those times when I can’t keep one or both partners from interrupting the other.  The image I used here is what it looks like.  I cut it out and glued it to a frozen orange juice can top.  I let one partner hold the button and as long as they are holding that button they cannot speak – only listen.  Then we switch.  They usually are willing to listen if they know they are going to be given equal time to be heard. 

The goal of good communication is to understand each other better and to create an opportunity for your partner to be heard, understood and accepted.

Let me give you a few more tips on communication today.  Putting them into practice may seem awkward at first but so did walking and using eating utensils.  I work on these every day.  Start simple, pick one and look for ways to use it in your daily communication interactions.  Let me know how it goes.

1. Mirroring: Mirror back to your partner what you heard them say:

  •   “I heard you say….”
  •  “If I understood you correctly, you said…”
  •  “It sounds like you are saying….”

 After you mirror back to them, get some feedback. Ask, “Did I get that right?”

 Show an interest in wanting to understand the whole picture, ask, “Is there more you want to tell me?”

This is what they use at the drive up window of your favorite fast food place.  You give them the order and they repeat it back to you.  Occasionally they actually get it right!

2. Validating: Validating is seeing the world through your partner’s eyes.  It is giving them the right to their opinion no matter how far out in left field you feel they are.

 That’s how we show compassion, something everyone wants to experience from his or her partner. Validating is not agreeing, it is basically saying, “From your perspective, I can see why/how you would see it that way.”

Validating sounds like:

  • “I can see what you mean.”
  • “I can understand where you’re coming from”
  • “That makes sense to me because….”

 3. Empathizing: Empathizing is a really powerful way of developing intimacy and again really conveying compassion to your partner.

 Empathizing requires you to verbally capture the emotion behind what your partner is saying and express it to him or her. Empathizing is speaking with your heart.

 Empathy sounds something like:

  • “You must feel ……”
  • “That must make you feel…”
  • “I wonder if you feel…”


One major mistake that many couples make is fire hosing each other with too much information. Give bite size pieces of information. Don’t rehash the whole history and all the details. Use self-control and practice condensing what you want your partner to hear. Use only 3 – 5 medium size sentences at a time. If you have been talking for 1 minute it’s time to let your partner respond. Use an egg timer if necessary.

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