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Being a trained life coach, I’ve learned that the number one distraction from true listening is the typical strong urge to offer solutions. According to life coach Patrick Williams, this often distorts communication by superimposing your agenda upon the conversation and sidetracking it from the real issues.

It’s odd how that we have this strange tendency to want to fix everyone. (I’m not implying we can’t and shouldn’t help people, but what usually happens is that we create people who become dependent upon us to do their thinking – thus creating followers not leaders.)

Some of our tendency to want to fix could come from our cultural surroundings. We live in a generation that is conditioned to have an option. Right or wrong, everyone should have one. Again, I am not against strong opinion. What I am against is the tendency to listen to reply rather than listen to support. Rare is the friend who listens merely to support.

Here are a few tips to help you listen better when offering support another person:

  1. Put your expert mentality in the check. Keep in mind that there are times and seasons where people merely need support and encouragement.
  2. Don’t allow your mind to run ahead of the conversation. The human brain has the ability to listen faster than the human tongue can speak. Hence we often run ahead, missing much of the conversation.
  3. Never try to one up the person with your story. Although you mean well, it can sidetrack what really needs to be discussed.

I think it is important to throw in a disclaimer at this point. I am not saying that we should never offer our advice or help. Of course there is a time for that course of action, however, listening for mere support is near an extinct practice in our western culture. Wouldn’t you agree?

How long has it been since you’ve listened in a supportive role? Can you imagine the impact this would have on your teen? Or, on your spouse, or anyone who needs a listening ear?

Listen, merely to support.

Application:

  • In order to listen for support, I need to stop…
  • In order to listen to support I need to start…
  • I will know I am getting better at listening to support when I see myself…

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