Emotionally Healthy Relationships: Listening Deeply (Week of 06.03.19)

By: Reality SF

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Opening (5 mins)

Start your time together by reading the simple words below, and then taking three minutes of silence in the presence of the Lord.

Each week we gather to praise our God,
to give ourselves over to our God
and to ask our God for help

We believe when we gather, He is with us
We believe when we openly confess our hearts, we become more like Him
We believe in Christ we are our truest selves,
created to love and serve others for the sake of the world

Practicing Deep Listening (60 min)

Consider this definition of Incarnational Listening and the practical steps for deep listening.

Incarnational Listening: to listen at a heart level with empathy, attuned to the words and nonverbal communication of another person so that the other person feels felt by you.

Deep listening steps:

  1. Give the person full attention
  2. Step into the speaker’s world; listen to their words and emotions; empathize.
  3. Avoid judging, interpreting, and fixing.
  4. Acknowledge the emotions you believe they are expressing.
  5. Confirm what they said and how they felt was correct.
  6. Ask “Is there more?” or “Can you tell me more about that?”
  7. Repeat until the other person feels heard.


Briefly discuss to help one another clarify: What (if anything) is unclear for you about this definition and on this list of steps?

Practice together.
Partner in a pair with the person next to you for this 20 minutes per person and 40 minutes total exercise. Walk through the following steps to practice intentionally, compassionately, and curiously listen in a way that creates room for a person to open their heart. Choose a Listener and Speaker, and this exercise will be repeated in reversed roles.

Step 1: Give the person full attention. As a Listener and Speaker, put away anything that might distract you such as phones, watches, and fidget spinners. As a Listener, take a moment to make eye contact with the Speaker and tell them “To the best of my ability and with God’s help, I’m giving you my full attention.”

Step 2-3: Step into the speaker’s world; listen to their words and emotions; empathize. Avoid judging, interpreting, and fixing. For the pair, spend 7 minutes where the Listener only asks the following questions (and does not verbally respond in any other way). And the Speaker shares honestly and vulnerably. Silence is good and sometimes what we need.

  • What is something important about your life that you want me to know?
  • What are some deep feelings, thoughts, or beliefs you have been experiencing or wrestling with lately?
  • How do you think God is at work in and through these circumstances in your life right now?


Step 4-5: Acknowledge the emotions you believe they are expressing. Confirm what they said and how they felt was correct.
Over 5 minutes, the Listener responds initially by saying “It sounds like you feel ___ (fill in the blank with an emotion word like sad, glad, mad, afraid, confused, annoyed, overjoyed, etc.) And what I heard you say was ___. Is that correct?” The Speaker can respond as they see fit to clarify or share more.

Step 6-7: Ask “Is there more?” or “Can you tell me more about that?” Repeat until the other person feels heard. The Listener follows up by asking “Can you tell me more about ___?” Speaker can continue to share and open up, and Listener continues reflect back what they hear the Speaker saying and feeling for 7 minutes.

After going through this exercise trade roles and repeat!

Biblical Wisdom on Listening

Read Proverbs 20:5 and James 1:19 about listening and discuss:

  • What intrigues or surprises you about these verses?
  • Why do you think listening deeply is important enough to God and his people to include verses like these in the Bible?
  • What are examples from your life where this kind of wise listening was practiced and the depths of your heart were heard? Who are examples of good listening in your life, and what makes their listening effective?


Closing (5 min)

Have someone close your time in prayer.

Note for this next week: As we live out this principle of emotionally healthy relationships, take note of any moments where people around you are expressing strong feelings such as frustration, disappointment, or glee. When these happen (and they likely will), ask the Lord to help you listen deeply and incarnationally.