Guidelines for Listening

by Sharon Ely Pearson

A key to the health and success of any group – large or small – is that all participants understand the importance of being open and willing to listen to others, even if their viewpoint is different than your own. A good practice before the beginning of any group committed to meet and study together are to form some group norms – practices in which all hold one accountable for.

Grounded in God: Listening Hearts Discernment for Group Deliberations by Suzanne G. Farnham, Stephanie A. Hull, and R. Taylor McLean (1996, Morehouse Publishing), offer these:

Guidelines for Listening

  1. Take time to become settled in God’s presence.
  2. Listen to others with your entire self (senses, feelings, intuition, and rational faculties).
  3. Speak for yourself only, expressing your own thoughts and feelings, referring to your own experience. Avoid being hypothetical.
  4. Do not challenge what others say.
  5. Do not interrupt.
  6. Do not formulate what you want to say while someone else is speaking.
  7. Pause between speakers to absorb what has been said.
  8. Listen to the group as a whole, to those who have not spoken verbally as well as to those who have; generally, if you have already spoken, leave space for anyone who may want to speak a first time before speaking a second time.

What practices do you encourage learning groups to follow?

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