Listening is so Powerful that it is Often Confused with love

Listening is so Powerful that it is Often Confused with love

Listening has such a powerful effect on people that listening is often confused with love.  Paul Tillich, the famous theologian states that, “The first duty of love is to listen”.  You cannot express love unless you are a great listener.  If you want to love more effectively, you must become a better listener.  In this blog post we will focus on how to listen more effectively.

There has been a strong focus on learning how to listen more effectively by employing the practices of Active Listening.  Here is a brief reminder of what active listening looks like:

  • Make eye contact with the speaker
  • Put aside distractions
  • Don’t mentally prepare a rebuttal
  • Pay attention to their body language
  • Nod, smile, and use other facial expressions
  • Sit or stand with an open posture
  • Encourage them to continue with small verbal comments
  • Periodically summarize their comments
  • When you respond, match their pace of speaking

All these are great practices that will make you a better listener.  However, there is a deeper level of listening that you want to go after.  You don’t just want to listen to what people are saying, you want to listen to why they are saying it.  If you can understand the reasons for what they are saying, you will be listening to their heart.  That is what we are after in this blog post.

Corestrengths research has discovered that people are motivated in three major ways.  By listening to the heart, you will be able to discern why they are communicating.  Use your active listening skills to listen deeper and identify the primary motivation of the communicator and what is most important to them.  The three motivations are as follows:

  • People
    • Motivated by a concern for the protection, growth, and welfare of others
    • Helps others to make a difference in their lives
    • Sincere, trusting, encouraging, fun-loving
    • Talks about feelings and benefits for others
  • Performance
    • Motivated by a concern for task accomplishment and achieving results
    • Purposeful, clear, and direct in their communication with others
    • Confident in most situations, not afraid to challenge
    • Makes quick decisions
  • Process
    • Motivated by a concern for practical analysis and establishing order
    • Systematic, reserved, organized and concerned with procedure
    • Objective and logical with an emphasis on fairness
    • Prefers time to consider decisions, observe surroundings, and collect information

We are all a blend of these motivations, but we emphasize one or two over the others.  Some have an equal blend and are focused on Perspective (look at things from different angles, and situations; focus on integration of ideas, and experimenting with solutions).

What keeps us from listening deeper for the why is that often we are narrowly focused on what is most important to ourselves.  This greatly reduces the opportunity to hear someone’s heart.  Our own heart is so focused on the results we desire that we miss the opportunity to actively listen to the heart of the person in front of us.  Pay attention to what is going on in your own soul.

As a Performance oriented person, I can easily focus on the results.  Rather than actively listening to what is beneath (the heart) I can quickly produce reasons and solutions to achieve results rather than trying to understand and reflecting that is most important to the other person.  When I do that, the other person doesn’t feel heard or understood.

Why do we fail so often to actively listen to the heart of others?  Because our soul needs are triggered and can overwhelm us.  There are three soul needs that correspond to the motivations:

  • People: Acceptance
  • Performance: Significance
  • Process: Security

As a Performance oriented person, my soul desires significance.  If that soul need isn’t met through Christ, I may get focused on performance strongly because my significance depends on it.  The more I am aware of my propensity to focus on significance through performance, the more I am able to reorient my own soul as a listener.  My significance is not found in my performance, but rather in my identity as a son of God given to me by Christ.  I can be much more present for people when I rest in my identity in Christ.  I am growing in living in my identity as I mature in Christ and this allows me to listen to the soul of others – the why.

When we are full present in this way, we won’t be tempted to steer the conversation to what is most important to ourselves.  We will be able to reflect on what is most important to others.  We can give verbal cues that we have heard their heart.  We can use body language to indicate we are getting the message of what is important to them.

There are so many benefits of listening deeper at the motivational level.  Here are a few:

Lowers Judgement:  When you listen at a deeper level you will have a better understanding of people and their motives.  This will enable you to appreciate their perspective and eliminate misconceptions or judgements.

Reduces Conflict:  It’s possible to make someone feel seen, valued, and heard — and still not give them the answer they were hoping for.  In that sense, we can help steer the conversation from conflict toward healthy opposition, where each person expresses their opinions and values while respecting the other person’s.

Builds Trust:  It’s possible to make someone feel seen, valued, and heard.  You can listen for someone’s motivation and affirm what’s important to them.  When you do this trust will grow.  We can only move at the speed of trust.  When trust is lacking, we get bogged down in our relationships.

Leads to Better Understanding:  When you get someone at the heart level and what is most important to them, you will understand what that person values.  This enables you to align expectations.

Leads to Innovative Solutions:  Listening slows down the conversation and allows space for wisdom to emerge.  Hearing what is important to other people and validating how they feel lowers the temperature in the room and for emotions to cool down.  Innovation is more likely to arise in this environment.

Listening is often confused with Love.  When you listen well people come to believe you really do love them.  People who listen well and deeply are more effective in working with others.  Corestrengths and Soul Awareness can help you listen more effectively – deeper.  Don’t forget, Jesus said, “They will know you are Christians by your love.” (John 13:35).

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.