In our busy schedules, we often want to quickly offer a “fix” when wisdom would dictate a pause. When we hold back a response to listen intently and even ponder how or if we should respond, we are more apt to hit the mark with a response that is helpful.
As initially published on ibelive, karen Hardin shares an insightful article on becoming a better friend by better improving our communication skills.
To build up and strengthen our relationships, here are five important steps we can follow:
1. Listen fully before speaking.
James 1:19 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” We need to write that on our bathroom mirror, don’t we?
If we will listen to the end of a story or read to the end of an article, we will gain insight and perspective that will answer the questions or concerns that may have initially arisen. Has what was said or written has aroused us to anger? Most definitely that is a time to pause, take a deep breath and refrain from comment until we can return to a place of calm. In those moments, we should ask for clarity and better understanding before stepping in to offer advice.
2. Not everything needs to be a teachable moment.
We often times miss the humor or joy of a situation when we feel we must teach into each situation or offer advice. It is actually a form of pride when we determine that we have something to interject in every situation. It suggests that we know better than they. Unsolicited advice can cause frustration, hurt and even anger. We can lose an opportunity of shared camaraderie and the deepening of trust when we choose to speak instead of listen. Whether it is a time to rejoice, or mourn we would do well to listen without comment to the heart of the one sharing.
3. Ask before offering insight.
Before we offer the advice swirling in our brain, we need to ask if the individual is open to insight. Sometimes your friend may simply need a sounding board. I know there are times I simply want to share a situation with my husband; I’m not asking him to “fix it.” Instead my desire is simply that he will listen and offer a sympathetic ear. Sometimes after I feel I have been heard, I will ask him for advice. Sometimes I won’t. Sometimes it’s a comfort just to know that he knows what I experienced. People often feel that way. we have to take our hands off and simply listen, offering advice only if it is requested.
4. Speak to the level of the relationship.
Relationship is what gives an open door to offer correction and insight. Parents, teachers, and friends speak into our lives when they fill their role as leaders, protectors and providers. If there is no relationship, then we need to exercise caution if we choose to jump in to speak a word of correction. As in the case of my former leader, it had been over thirty years since I had seen or heard from him. It hardly provided a platform to offer correction out of the blue when there had been no ongoing relationship.
5. Be emotionally present.
This last step is probably the most important. Simply love and choose to be emotionally present. This means fully listening and being engaged. We choose to love no matter what is shared. We may not always agree with what we hear, but that doesn’t mean we need to immediately wade into those waters with advice. Wisdom in relationships comes from understanding when to listen, when to speak and when we should simply pray. And when we are able to close our mouth and open our ears and our hearts, we create trust that will often open the door for us to offer that well-meaning piece of advice.
Karen Hardin is a literary agent, published author and marketing guru. She has been in the Christian publishing industry for 25 years and has had the privilege of working on numerous projects for some of the most recognized names in the industry. Read more
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