How to Listen If You Don’t Want People to Talk

Several weeks ago,  I was working on a project, and I craved some feedback. My husband Barry is always a willing victim participant, so I ran my questions by him. And then I pretended to listen.

“I need your marketing brain. Which of these sentence do you think works better?” I queried. “Are there any words you have trouble with? If there are, what would you substitute?”

Barry generously put his task aside and began to share his ideas with me. Sadly, he didn’t rubber stamp my original idea. He came up with other thoughts instead, and they didn’t suit me. Not at all.

So one-by-one, as he offered the suggestions I had asked for, I shot them down, revealing that I wasn’t really listening at all. I was critiquing.

“I don’t think women will identify with that.”

“Hmmm… that word’s overused.”

“That won’t work.”

Suddenly, Barry grew silent, and I looked up into his handsome face. At the beginning of this little exercise, he had a look of thoughtfulness and anticipation. Now he looked discouraged and totally over it.

I quickly apologized, asked for his forgiveness, and told him that I’d shut up and truly listen if he’d keep suggesting. Another lesson about listening learned.

 

Let me quickly say that I’m not talking about Scriptural truth, although even that should often be held until the right time. I’m referring to our own dearly loved opinions and preferences. In my situation with Barry, there wasn’t one right way to write my sentence. There were multiple ways to do it that will engage others, but I had a tightly gripped thought on what one way would work. (Ahem. Can anyone say “perfectionist in process?”)

Have you ever found yourself in that circumstance? Losing out on something you could have gained by listening because you didn’t hold back your critique? That’s the way to listen if we don’t want people to talk, but here are four lessons about how to listen if we do:

Ask questions without preconceptions. 

I’ve been working on asking great questions instead of monologuing my own thoughts, and it’s been a revelation! Asking a question is a fabulous way to learn something new or to gain a new perspective. People are actually surprised when you ask them questions, inviting them to talk about themselves or their ideas.

When I ask a question that requires feedback, I’m learning to put my preconceptions aside. My preconceptions strengthen the thought that there is only one way and weakens my ability to receive from someone else. If I really want to connect and learn, my “one right way” of thinking has to go.

Create space for something new.

By shooting down Barry’s ideas one by one, I both discouraged him (and annoyed him I’m sure!), and I blocked the flow of his creativity. I know that my best ideas often come at the end of 10 bad ones, but I hadn’t given him the same benefit of the doubt.

Once I’ve asked the question, I have to work really, really hard to not talk. Silence is the needed space where someone else can plant a new thought or idea.

Let me speak to extroverts for a minute. Silence is immensely uncomfortable for us. I get it, but it’s necessary if we’re to receive the benefits of listening. Years ago, I became friends with an amazing woman who’s an introvert. I realized that my need to fill the spaces kept me from connecting with her. When I finally allowed some silence into our conversations, I reaped a huge reward! Every word she spoke was worth waiting for, but her personality required some space to speak. She wasn’t going to shove her way into my stream. 🙂

Focus your thoughts.

As I’ve said, I may have seemed like a good listener for a long time, but I wasn’t. Even when I wasn’t talking, I wasn’t really listening. I was only processing what you were saying to the extent that I could think of the next thing I wanted to say!

The other piece of listening that I’m having to work on with effort and intention is focusing my thoughts on what’s being said. Being present. Being truly attentive.

Be grateful.

It’s truly a gift when others are willing to share their time with us, and it’s a rare reward when people share their thoughts with vulnerability. Even when I don’t agree (much more on that to come), I can be grateful for what that person has given to me.

When Barry shared his ideas with me weeks ago, he gave me some of himself and his extraordinary gifts. I’m incredibly thankful that God showed me the effect my interruptions were having so that he was willing to continue.

How about you? Have you found yourself displaying the bad habits I did? How have you learned to listen better?

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I’d love to meet you face to face!

This spring I’m looking forward to traveling to lots of places to speak, and I’d love to see you there. Here are the locations and links more information about open events:

February 21                Columbia, MO               Columbia Christian Women                              [email protected]

February 22-23         Tuscaloosa, Al               Church at Tuscaloosa          https://churchattuscaloosa.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/193230

March 1-2                    Pawleys Island, SC       Kings Cross Church             https://kingscross.churchcenter.com/registrations/events/190476

March 23                      Amsterdam, NY            Perth Bible Church                                                  https://perthbible.church/

April 5-6                        Lake Geneva, WI          Northbridge Church            https://northbridgechurch.ccbchurch.com/

I’d love to speak at your event too! Click here to learn more.

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God’s Path to Tender Hearts and Strong Voices

Gracious.

It’s seems like it’s been forever since we’ve just done life here together on the blog. Between the holidays, a blogging break and the devo post last week, it’s been a hodge podge. Thanks for hanging in there with me. You’re a treasure. Truly.

But I’m ready and excited to settle back down into our purpose to develop:

Tender hearts. Strong voices.

We’ve got lots of newcomers, and I’m thrilled to have you here. Welcome! If you’re new and wanting to get a taste of where we’re going, I invite you to watch the videos below to get a clear idea of our direction.

“Will you go a new direction with me?”

“Unity and Love: Some rules of engagement”

If you’ve been here a long time, I’m so grateful! Either way, I know I need a chance to get back on course, and maybe you do too. God was so good last week to give me a clear, biblical picture of where He’s leading us.

I’ve never heard God audibly speak to me, but He’s always speaking. One of the ways I recognize His voice is through repetition. I’m slow, so I may miss it the first time. I’m not completely dense, though. I usually catch it the second time around.

This week, I studied Acts 2:41-47 with my friends at New Providence church, and then our pastor preached on the same passage at Apex Baptist on Sunday. Hello, God!

I’m going to be processing the lessons in that passage for a long time, but I felt compelled to review all of Acts 2 today. You may want to get your Bible and read it too. As I was reading, our process leapt off the page at me!

Listen

Starting in verse 14, Peter stood up to address the crowd, and they listened. Led by the Holy Spirit, using God’s Word from the Old Testament and explaining his eye-witness account of Jesus’ life, Peter explained the Gospel. Do you see what’s happening there? All three persons of the Trinity– God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit– are playing a part in speaking through Peter. He has been and is actively listening as he speaks.

As Peter speaks truth, the crowd is listening.

Feel

Peter wraps up his message of the Gospel, and verse 37 tells us, “When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart….” The people listened to the message given by the Holy Spirit through Peter, and they felt conviction. Sorrow. Pain.

It was the appropriate and Holy-Spirit-given response to what they had heard.

Do

But the people didn’t just feel and then leave. They felt and responded with a question, “‘Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2: 37b). They knew that listening wasn’t enough. Even being moved wasn’t enough. Now it was time to act.

And act they did, thus the title of the book of the Bible! They turned to Christ for forgiveness and were baptized, but they didn’t stop there. They started learning and meeting and sharing and giving and breaking bread together. We’ll focus much longer on the end of the chapter when I write about our third step, “DO.”

Speak

We know that these new Jesus followers didn’t limit to do-ing. They also began speaking of Jesus, sharing the Gospel. As a result, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” (Acts 2: 47b) They told others who listened and believed, and so the process was repeated over and over. Through the centuries. Until there was you and me.

Stunning.

I was amazed and strengthened to see that the process I outlined before Christmas really is a God-idea, not just an Amy-idea. It’s my heart’s desire to share God-ideas with you because only those are transforming and eternal.

Are we all on the same page again and ready to move forward? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next week I’ll start writing about “Listening to Others” but “Listening to God” always, always comes first and is the foundation. If you missed any of the posts from before Christmas in the “Listening to God” series, this is your chance to catch up or review. Next week, we’ll hit the ground running.

To Be Successful Always Refer to Rule #1

How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

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Loving When It’s Difficult in the Month of Love

(Note: In the spirit of LOVE, I’ve got a friend that’s offering a great giveaway today. Read to the end to find out how to enter.)

If you’re here for the first time, visiting from today’s devotion “The Difference a Dose of Love Can Make”, welcome!

As I said in the devotion…

Loving others unleashes an explosion of God’s love.

I believe that to be biblical and therefore true, but it’s not always easy. There are difficult people in our lives:

The co-worker that seems to always undermine you.

The child who constantly challenges you.

The friend who focuses exclusively on herself.

The in-law who’s an out-law.

The neighbor who isn’t neighborly.

The church lady who’s always spiritually one-upping you.

These are all legitimate sources of angst, but none of the “causes”  are excuses not to love. They don’t let us off the hook for one clear reason.

Can I tell you? I KNOW that I’ve been the hard-to-love one, and Jesus could testify to that fact. Yet, He has loved me– and you– unfailingly. He is the faithful bridegroom that’s always there for us. Amazing. Hard to believe even, but true.

And so He calls us to love the difficult. The invisible. The unlovely. I don’t know about you, but I need some help with this. Here’s a short list of practical ways I’ve developed as I intentionally point my heart toward loving better:

We listen more than we speak.

This one is hard for a girl who has lots to say. Not only that, but I’ve mistakenly equated listening with agreeing. It turns out that one doesn’t equal the other. I’ll be exploring how to listen to others in a series I’ll start on the blog next week. Click here to join me. The more I listen to someone else, the deeper my understanding of them grows. Even when we’re not on the same page, a growing understanding deepens my empathy and love for them. It has never failed. Listening makes a difference.

We choose kindness even when others are unkind. 

Several years ago, a close relationship in my life had become distant through a series of hard circumstances. My usual method of dealing with this kind of situation is what my kids call “ghosting.” Instead of dealing with a difficulty in a relationship, I’d simply slip away. My friends would turn around and wonder where I’d gone. This time, however, God pricked my heart, challenging me to do something that would restore the friendship, and He gave me a tool. It’s a book called The Kindness Challenge by Shaunti Feldhahn. After following the steps in the book for 30 days, lo and behold, my friendship was restored. Kindness is a powerful, loving tool for improving difficult relationships.

We watch closely for opportunities to reach out to “invisible” people. 

Just like Babita displayed in my devotion today, there are people everywhere who need to be included if we’ll only open our eyes and ask God to show us. Just last weekend, I chatted with the housekeeper on the way into the bathroom at a conference center I was visiting. I complimented her on how beautiful and clean she kept the facility. It was a simple thing, but I meant it and felt compelled to tell her. On the way out, she introduced herself by name, we shook hands, and we had a lovely conversation. It wasn’t that I did anything that was a big deal, but I felt that it was a divine connection. A holy moment. Who might need a loving connection in your world today?

We pray for those who are challenging us. 

Can I confess to you? Although I have a naturally sunny disposition, once you’ve crossed me, I’m apt to either ghost or hold a grudge (or both). I certainly don’t want to pray for those who have crossed my lines! But prayer is another effective way to love others and to change our feelings about them. It’s impossible to stay mad or in a state of unforgiveness if you’re praying for someone. Impossible. We can love others well in our difficult relationships by praying for them.

To help you pray, my friend Kelly O’Dell Stanley reached out to offer 5 of her beautiful prayer calendars to give away today. Wooohooo!

To enter, simply leave a comment telling one way you’ve shown love to others, a way someone has shown love to you or your favorite option from my list today. It can be short and sweet!

Everybody can receive a free gift, though. Simply click on the graphic below to receive Kelly’s February calendar  when you subscribe. Thanks, Kelly, for loving on us!

At no additional cost to you, there are affiliate links in this post that help to defray the cost of website upkeep. If you’d like to read the full set of disclosures, click here.

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Stoking the Flames of Your Longing Heart

Wowza!

When I wrote about “How to Prioritize Prayer in Your Busy Life” and then invited you to sign up for more prayer tools, I had no idea how many of you would respond. Over 3700 of you joined our group here last week. Miraculous! Thank you! 

(Note: My special resource for subscribers was sent 1.10.19. If you didn’t see it in your inbox, please check your spam. Moving it to your inbox will ensure that we can stay connected, and I’d sure love that!)

This community’s response told me something important…

I’m not alone.

Prayer is important to us, because we long to know God better. We want to talk to Him, and most importantly, we want to hear Him.

Hearing from God has been high on my priority list for decades, but it has taken precedence this January. In the process we’re going through here to develop tender hearts and strong voices, the first step has been the most important. Listen. It’s been the theme for weeks leading up to 2019, and I originally intended to do a blogging break all during January so that I can practice what I preach– listen. Everything you’ve gotten since early Dec. was pre-scheduled so that I could take a break just to listen to God.

But I recognize the longing in your response, and I couldn’t leave it unaddressed. I want to re-share some resources this week with those of you that have just joined our little community.  These are some of the conversations and thoughts that have fueled my desire to listen to God. As continue my blogging break through the end of January, I hope these will keep you going… longing… seeking God in prayer.

Here’s a video with an interview of my dynamic friend Laura Lee about how to hear from the Holy Spirit. Click here to watch it on the website.

Prayer and hearing from God requires dependence on Him which means surrendering my own control over things. Click on the graphic below to listen to one of my Grit ‘n’ Grace interviews about the book It’s All Under Control by Jennifer Dukes Lee.

Another way to hear from God is by studying Scripture. Click here to find out about a simple but profound 3-step Bible study tool God has used to speak to me personally through the Bible. A sample of my own personal notes is included.

There ya go– three more tools to enhance your time with God for the next three weeks. I’d love to hear which one helps or impacts you the most.

I’ll be back in Feb. with a series on how to really listen to others. God’s been speaking while I’ve been listening, and I can’t wait to share with you!

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For any of you new folks that might be speakers or writers, I want to let you know about another “hat” I wear. I’m the speaker coach for Next Step Coaching Services. Click on the graphic below to read our latest blog post, and we invite you to subscribe while you’re there. You’ll receive “15 Surefire Ways to Grow Your Speaking Ministry” just for joining our crew of communicators.

 

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Powerful Prayer in the New Year

Happy New Year, friends!

Do you love January 1st as much as I do? A fresh start feels so good… especially in the area of powerful prayer.

In today’s devotion, “How to Prioritize Prayer in Your Crazy Busy Life,” I shared about my 2018 word for the year, PRAY. There were so many lessons I learned, and I’m still learning.

In late November, I did an interview about listening to God through prayer with two of my gifted friends. Listen in to hear:

  • An fantastic acronym to use as a prayer tool (this one was new to me!)
  • A different kind of fast that just might change your prayer life forever

(Current subscribers, this is a re-run well worth watching again. Click here to watch on the website. If you missed it the first time, this is a great second chance!)

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Moving Out of Starvation to Feasting

This time of year, I’m starving–starving for margin, for face time with my people and for a renewed connection with God.

If you feel the same way, I hope my devotion today, You Were Made to Feast Not Starve”, will feed your soul. In addition, here’s a Christmas Prayer for a soul meal. (Download this free print, but make sure to keep reading below!)

Although it’s easy to starve our souls with busyness this time of year, getting quiet to listen is one way to feed our souls.

I’ve been doing a series on how to listen to God in order to cultivate a tender heart. Today’s interview is with my dear friend, Laura Lee. Settle into my home office with us to find out “How to Tap Into Power When You Listen.” Laura gives huge insights about how to listen to the Holy Spirit in your every day life.

You can click on the titles below for more insights about how to listen to God, and then make sure to join so that you don’t miss any of this conversation about how to develop Tender Hearts and Strong Voices.

How to Know for Sure that Scripture is Trustworthy

How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

How to Hear God When You Pray

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How to Hear God When You Pray

Last night was an amazing time interviewing my friends Tammy Chapman and Felecia Lucas about “How to Hear God When You Pray.”

The video today is a little longer than usual, but there’s a reason…

The content they were sharing was TOO GOOD to stop!

I literally could have sat with them all night listening to their wisdom about listening to God through Scripture and prayer. I learned so much, and I can guarantee that you’re going to glean something today too. We can learn to hear God when we pray! (Note: Don’t miss Tammy’s acronym for prayer and Felecia’s story about how God used a different kind of fast in her life to help her to hear from Him. Amazing.)

Subscribers, click here to watch the video on the website.

If you want a link to the book Felecia mentioned and notes on Tammy’s acronym, go visit the comments from the video on my Facebook page. I’ve pinned it to the top just for you!)

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How to Know for Sure that YOU Can Find the Truth in Scripture

Have you ever wondered…

Is Scripture completely true and can I trust it?

Do I have to go to seminary to really understand the Bible?

Are there some simple tools that I can learn to grasp truth in Scripture and apply it in my life?

The answers are definitively, yes, yes and yes!

If you missed last week’s teaching on the trustworthiness of Scripture, click here.

This week, I’m sharing some simple tools that will help you learn to study Scripture on your own in a way that empowers you to grow spiritually. Please watch the video below. (Click here to watch the video if you’re a subscriber.)

(Although this originally aired as a Facebook Live, I welcome your comments and questions here too.)

I’m so glad you’re here today continuing the series to build Tender Hearts and Strong Voices by walking through these steps together:

Listen –> Feel –> Do –> Speak

If you don’t want to miss a thing, make sure to sign up for my weekly emails by clicking here.

I’ll have some special guests next week talking about “How to Hear God When You Pray”. You can join me live on Facebook at 8:00 pm on Wednesday, November 28th.

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To Be Successful Always Refer to #1

See if this resonates with you…

Good golly. In this new season of learning and growing, I need this tattooed on my hand. Since I often raise it to gesture before I speak, hopefully I’d see this note to myself and close my mouth before I gets me in more trouble! Speaking needs to be my last step. First I need to…

Listen to God.

We’re starting here with the new direction of  this blog. As my kids’ children’s pastor used to continuously repeat,

God’s ways are always best.

For every conversation and question in the upcoming posts, referring back to #1 is going to be our default. We’re often wrong, but God never is. As He says,

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

Here, we’re going to practicing listening to God, and tuning out

Talk show hosts.

Political pundits.

Influential friends.

Charismatic speakers and writers.

Any other voice except The Voice.

Success in developing a tender heart begins with listening to God. And we’re going to go to the source, Scripture, of where God speaks, using our Bibles as the foundation of how we think, act and speak. Remember the process we’re going to work through?

Listen–> Feel–> Do–> Speak

Through Christmas, I’ll be blogging about listening to God. Forever and always here, our #1 is “Listen to God,” and that will be our answer to every question, point of contention or place of confusion. Instead of slogging around in rhetoric and opinions, we’ll look to see what Scripture says. (Hold me to it, girls! Hold me to it!)

To be clear, I’m not totally oblivious to reality. I understand that true followers can still land on the opposite sides of issues after studying Scripture, but it’s still our best step to faithfully walk with God. The beauty of looking to God through His Word together is that we’ll be unified in our purpose to seek Him instead of divided by parties or church circles.

Each week, I’m going to issue one action step so that we’re truly changing instead of just dealing in ideas. Here’s this week’s challenge:

Listen to God–Challenge #1

  1. Read this blog post about a simple but profound way to study Scripture.
  2. Print the handouts so that you can give the 3-step method a try.
  3. From wherever you’re currently reading the Bible, take one passage of up to 10 verses this week and do the 3-step Bible study.
  4. Leave a comment with a picture of your notes on the Facebook post pinned at the top of my Facebook page and tell something you learned.

To keep it fun, anyone who posts a picture before November 1st will be entered to win a drawing for Kathi Lipp’s and Cheri Gregory’s new book You Don’t Have to Try So Hard!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Step Tool

In encouraging you to study scripture on your own, I want to give you a tool that has helped me gain greater understanding and has given me more personal application than my past study. I picked up this tool at an Anne Graham Lotz crusade, but it is also used by Bible Study Fellowship. It’s very simple and contains just three questions. Divide your paper into three columns with the following headings:

(Click here to download a blank page, an explanation page, and a sample study page)

What does it say?
What does it mean?
How do I apply this?

Begin by praying and asking God to show you where to start and what verses He’d like for you to study. Pick a short passage so you can slow down, spend some time, and really work on understanding. You will complete one question/column at a time for the whole passage.
Depending on the passage, I sometimes answer the questions for each verse individually, but sometimes I group verses together. Organize your study in a way that makes sense to you.

Use the tips below as guidelines for answering the questions. The rule of thumb is to begin by looking at exactly what God says in the passage without our own interpretation. Act like a reporter in this section, and just write the facts and major details.

The next step is to find the lesson in the passage. The Bible is meant to be interpreted as a whole, so sometimes single verses are confusing or seem contradictory. If that happens, look at the verse in the context of the whole chapter or entire book.

The final step is applying God’s Word to your own life. This is where something very exciting happens. If you are studying with a group, the group’s first column would be very close to identical. The second column might vary a little, but many would come to the same conclusions. On the application column, though, every member of the group might have a different application. That’s God speaking directly and personally to you! Completely amazing! Use the following tips to guide you as you study.

What does it say?
Put the number of the verse beside each fact.
Write down facts. This includes answers to the “w”s (who, what, when, where).
Write each fact in a brief summary sentence. Remember, this is your short-hand, so use abbreviations, symbols or anything that you’ll remember later.
Do not paraphrase. Use significant words straight from scripture. ( i.e. holiness, redeemed)

What does it mean?
What are the spiritual truths or principles in this verse?
Look for keys like these:
S—Is there a sin to confess?
P—Is there a promise to keep?
A—Is there an action to take?
C—Is there a command I need to heed?
E—Is there an example to follow or to avoid?

How do I apply this?
How will I act on this lesson?
Write open ended questions — ones that can’t be answered with “yes” or “no”
Take time to pray and listen. Write a response to each question.

 

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