Listening Isn't Enough


A large part of my vocation is to sit down with people and listen to their experiences.


Listening isn’t enough, though.


In any situation where we find ourselves interacting with others, especially when people are making themselves vulnerable by expressing their true feelings and selves to us, we must not only listen but engage.


Engagement with others is active participation in a discussion with someone. It allows them to fully engage themselves and not hold back for fear that they will be judged or that they’re wasting our time.

When people feel safe through our engagement with them, real connections can be made and healing as well as growth are truly possible.


If we are listening to someone out of a sense of obligation, it will be hard to move beyond to engagement with them.

Try as we might, it will be all but impossible to avoid treating the discussion as a line item to be checked off on our checklist.

It’s better to decline a discussion than treat it as a burden. Even if we don’t think we’re doing that, our interlocutor will know we are and be deflated by it.

A surefire strategy to get ourselves out of just listening (which is good and necessary, but not enough) and into engagement is to make the person you’re talking to feel important to you.

Sounding excited and exchanging ideas is a good way to do this. If we’re just listening and not contributing to the discussion with excitement, how does the person we’re talking to know they’re important to us?

Regardless of whether the topic of discussion is important to us, the person we’re spending our time with should be.

Making use of non-verbal tools like nodding our heads and making eye contact as well as showing in our faces that we are thinking about what the other person is saying are helpful.

Verbal ways to show we care could be restating what the person is saying to show comprehension of their point before giving our take on the subject or showing empathy.

Most importantly, though, we actually have to care.


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