David Mathis writes for Desiring God…
Listening is one of the easiest things you’ll ever do, and one of the hardest.
In a sense, listening is easy — or hearing is easy. It doesn’t demand the initiative and energy required in speaking. That’s why “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17). The point is that hearing is easy, and faith is not an expression of our activity, but our receiving the activity of another. It is “hearing with faith” (Galatians 3:2, 5) that accents the achievements of Christ and thus is the channel of grace that starts and sustains the Christian life.
But despite this ease — or perhaps precisely because of it — we often fight against it. In our sin, we’d rather trust in ourselves than another, amass our own righteousness than receive another’s, speak our thoughts rather than listen to someone else. True, sustained, active listening is a great act of faith, and a great means of grace, both for ourselves and for others in the fellowship.
Mathis goes on to list six key lessons that will help us all become better listeners. Like we teach in our Biblical Counseling Training, one of the most crucial parts of counseling is good listening.
A couple of key verses are found in Proverbs 18 concerning the importance of good listening over rushing to give an answer. Verse 2 says, “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” And in verse 13 we see that, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” I will often mention this latter verse in my first session with new counselees to explain why they will do the bulk of the talking in that first meeting. But the need for good listening stretches beyond that first meeting, and continues each week, in every conversation we will have in the future.
As you counsel others, whether in a formal setting or simply through everyday conversations, the lessons Mathis gives in his article will, I trust, be a help to you. You can find those lessons here.