This week we review a critical skill, that if used by all attendees, will significantly improve our desired meeting outcomes. That skill is Active Listening.
In an article titled The Big 6: An Active Listening Skill Set from The Center for Creative Leadership, Michael Hoppe describes six key skills that will improve our ability to listen effectively during our church meetings. Let’s take a quick look at each skill:
- Paying attention – The mental component of this skill is the ability to clear our mind of distracting thoughts. I must quiet my own inner dialogue and concentrate on the thoughts of the speaker. The physical component of this skill includes using my body language to indicate that I am listening. Face the speaker with my eyes open and a facial expression of interest. Our body language often speaks more loudly than our words. And finally, I need to put away my phone to avoid sneaking screen time.
- Holding judgment – As an old debater in high school, I must remember that my first goal is not to prepare my rebuttal comments. Instead I need to absorb and understand the thoughts of the speaker. I must avoid premature judgment and the desire to interrupt the speaker and share my wisdom on the topic. The 80/20 rule applies here: do 80% of the listening and 20% of the talking.
- Reflecting – My own beliefs, judgment or life experience can easily color what I hear. A key action step I can take to minimize this effect is to paraphrase the speaker’s thoughts. The intent is not to reach agreement at this point. Rather it is to be sure I am hearing their thoughts correctly. Paraphrasing also indicates to the speaker that I am listening.
- Clarifying –- Asking open ended, clarifying questions indicates that I am seeking to better understand the speaker’s point of view. I can use the simple but powerful questions: who, what, when, where and why? I must resist the urge, both in tone and content, to ask harsh “3rd degree” questions that are intended to embarrass the speaker or promote my own opinion.
- Summarizing – A best practice is to restate what I heard the speaker share and ask if I understand their thoughts accurately. I can use phrases like, “it sounds as if your main concern is …” or “these are the key points I have written down …”. It is also appropriate to ask the speaker to briefly summarize key points.
- Sharing – Now that I have listened actively to the speaker, I can spend my 20% of the time by sharing my ideas, feelings and suggestions. My thoughts should be shared in a spirit of reaching a mutual understanding of the topic/issue.
Meetings can be a valuable component of faith-filled ministry planning, implementation and evaluation. By understanding and incorporating some of the best practices we have reviewed during this series, I know it will help you conduct more effective and more enjoyable meetings.
If The Center for Parish Leadership can assist you in training your church staff or leaders in best-practices like Effective Meeting Management or other areas of need in your church, please Contact Us .
Note: If you would like to read past Weekly Research Updates, you will find them on our new The Center for Parish Leadership website Blog.