Lately, the Lord has been showing me it is time for me to stop talking and listen for understanding. Stephen Covey says, “Most people do not listen to understand; they listen to answer. While the other is talking, they are preparing their reply.” The scripture says, “Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish.” (Proverbs 18:13, NLT)
The more a leader talks, the more we concentrate on thinking about what we are going to say next. We are more likely to miss important information or clues or promptings of the Holy Spirit if we are doing all the talking. When we take time to listen and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us in leading our group, we are gaining a complete understanding before we speak.
The 80/20 rule of active listening says that we should spend 80% of the time listening and only 20% of the time talking. I work hard at being quiet and listening when leading my First Place for Health group. My first tendency is to share all my knowledge and understanding. However, I find the best meetings are when my group members have done most of the sharing.
Group members look forward to the meeting so they can share how they feel, what they’ve learned, and what they need. Most of our time during the meetings should be filled with discussion and learning from each other. If the leader or any one member does most of the talking, then we miss out on the wealth of information from all the group members.
When someone shares in my group, instead of me interjecting my perspective, I say “Who else has something to share?” Depending on the subject, I might need to wait through what is called the pregnant pause. The uncomfortable time needed for some group members to enter the conversation. I smile through the quiet and encourage people with my eyes to share. I’ll count to 30 to myself if needed.
Another way to engage the quieter members is to say, “Let’s hear from someone who hasn’t shared yet.” My goal is to hear from everyone during a meeting. I only add to the discussion, if I have something new to contribute after everyone else has had time to share and only if we have time before we move on to the next topic. I work hard at this concept to stop talking. It’s not easy.
Ultimately, Jesus is the leader of our group. In John 10:27 He said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” When we place him in first place, listen to His voice, we have a greater ability to follow Him. Stop, listen and embrace all God has planned.
Helen Baratta, Director of Development for First Place for Health. She is the author of My Place for Leadership included in the My Place Leader’s Kit and Restored! Embracing Weight Loss God’s way available in our online bookstore.