listening to others online: can you hear me now?

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ. – Philippians 1:9-10, NKJV

Listening is one of the deepest acts of love you can extend to another person.

Few people really listen anymore. In fact, it’s becoming a lost part of our cultural heritage, like playing board games or writing letters. We talk about this topic quite a bit in @stickyJesus: how to live out your faith online because it’s a critical part of sharing the gospel (online or off).

Becoming a great listener can be problematic because it requires you to give up the sound of your own voice. Or in the online scenario, it’s the sight of your own brilliant thoughts in print. Listening requires an “others first” mentality. When you give the Holy Spirit full custody of your tongue (and your eager fingers) and start to really listen, your relationships will bloom with new life. It’s true: Great ministry is led by great listeners. How can you share truth in the context of another person’s unique life experiences if you don’t stop talking and really, really, really listen? You can’t.

There are two ways to listen online and both are important.

Listen by really reading (not scanning). What’s on the heart of the person speaking?  Is God speaking to me personally through this? How should I respond? What needs to be clarified? What’s the true context around this thought? Is the person just venting or do they need something more? Do they want me to do something?

Listen with your heart. There’s always “the post behind the post,” or the “tweet behind the tweet,” or the “email behind the email,” and so on. What is the person really saying? Is there a want, need or, desire that is woven into the unspoken. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you discern.

A good listener online:

  • Prays daily before logging on.
  • Empties his or her heart of any expectation.
  • Allows the Holy Spirit to lead.
  • Knows how to be quiet.
  • Looks at words and ideas in context.
  • Knows how to give to others and not just broadcast information.
  • Listens to others with an open mind free of prejudice and judgment.
  • Clarifies any grey areas before responding.
  • Seeks to hear what’s being said and hence, others feel heard.
  • Seeks to understand others and hence, others feel understood.
  • Asks good questions that prompt a deeper dive. (Instead of “Do you like that song?” you could ask: “So what is it you like about that song?”)
  • Follows up on conversations or prayer requests.
  • Spends time reading other’s blogs, feeds, and posts. Not to comment and be heard—but to listen and understand the other person.

For those who still think social media is just a bunch of noise, then social media for those folks will likely remain just a bunch of noise. However, for others who understand it on a more divine (and technical) level, social networks represent a critical window into the hearts and minds of individuals God has lovingly appointed to their path.

We’ve shared a dozen personal stories in the book, that illustrate God’s hand moving large and changing lives in the online space. We’ve illustrated that blogging isn’t just digital news or narcissistic banter; it’s an open invitation to share the gospel with millions. Facebook isn’t a platform; it’s a privilege. Twitter isn’t just 140-character micro-blogging; it’s powerful ministry that spans the globe. So in the midst of all the chatter today, be the one to stop, listen, and love those in your digital path.

Do you think you are a good listener online? Has listening made a difference in your online relationships?

Post/Tweet this today:
Listening is an act of love. Listen closely to the hearts around you. They long to be heard. #LiveSticky

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  • http://twitter.com/DataGenesis Mark Prasek

    I briefly scanned this article and what I picked up seems pretty good. Just kidding! Us guys especially need help learning to actively listen. Provocative thoughts – thanks for your ministry to me. You are a blessing and source of encouragement. Full Armor!

  • Anonymous

    Them’s fighting word Mark! Ha ha! YOU are probably the best listener since you’ve got your ear to the ground for Christians 24/7. I love reading through your blog. I’m an ex-reporter so I love research and mining information. So, I am constantly RT people from your nice little harvest of smart/Christian tweets. You’ve cut my work in half: http://datagenesis.blogspot.com/. Keep listening (no scanning!) for us, it matters! Promise I’ll call ya soon. Gotta hear more about what you are doing! I want to hear the tech side!

  • http://kennysilva.net Kenny Silva

    If I’m talking to anybody about social media and how to get started, the concept of ‘listening’ dominates the conversation. Listening is something most of us are inherently bad at. When need to be intentional about really listening to people. It takes beautiful reminders like this post to keep us in that frame of mind.

    I looooooved that list. Great work!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Kenny! That’s the coolest thing helping anyone in business with social media, the client comes in burning with something to say, sell, or promote, and the best thing you can advise them to do first is to be quiet. That will usually garner a perplexed look until they begin to learn the goals of social networks. Focusing on the other person is foundational to any good relationship. Thanks for listening to us today and taking the time to thoughtfully comment. Listening = love. :)

  • http://twitter.com/SandraHeskaKing SandraHeskaKing

    This post rocks! Asking God to help me see past words to hearts.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting & listening today (and pointing out my typos!) I need an editor. Lost without @TamiHeim.

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  • Anonymous

    Love this. I’m a great listener in the morning when I’m first getting started. However, as the afternoon comes on, I’m not as great a listener. Thanks for opening my eyes to this.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for listening and responding. Lovely to see you here and sharing. I also wane as the day goes along. Naps might make me a much better listener. Yup, that’s the plan.

  • Tod Shuttleworth

    Great advice. I need to remember this and slow down my activator.

  • Anonymous

    I try to be a good listener but know there is always room for improvement.

  • Anonymous

    I always thought I was a good listener until I began blogging and realized I stink at it. When I began reading other blogs and knowing that if I wanted others to read mine I had to listen to their message first. I’ve always been a “what goes around comes around” girl.

  • Anonymous

    Do unto other, huh? It’s hard sometimes because we have our own agendas but if we really stop to listen, we will learn more and that will inform our overall knowledge as well as our next post or idea. I love reading the “comments” sometimes more than the posts! Smart people online…really smart.

  • Anonymous

    Amen! Not sure I’ll be a GREAT listener till I’m really old and can’t talk any more . . . or dead. Ha!

  • Anonymous

    I love that Tod – activator. I’m thinking mine is a bit click happy too! Always good when we can confess it and move on . . . its a process and a daily goal to listen to everyone. Love that you took the time to comment! Thank you!

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