The Gift of Leaning-In Listening

Seeking Deep Waters
The other evening my wife and I found ourselves sitting with a friend. It was an easy conversation, not a pre-arranged appointment. After numerous misses at seeking a job, our friend had found herself with the decision between two offers. The two jobs were very different. Each would tap into aspects of her skill sets. Each had positives and negatives. Which one should she choose?

There was more here than the very real aspect of an important decision. There were deeper waters being stirred in our friend as she considered the options. Ours was the honored opportunity  to draw out the deep waters of another person’s heart.

“The purpose of a man’s heart is like deep waters
a man of understanding will draw it out.” Proverbs 20:5

Listening: The Greatest Gift
There is a difference between hearing and listening.

There is no greater service we can provide to others than pursuing their heart through the gift of listening. Each of us long to be known, seen, heard, and understood. Listening is one of the greatest, most sacrificial offerings we extend to others. How is leaning-in listening sacrificial? When we choose to listen deeply to another we set our needs and wants aside. We take the time to draw out the other person.  This type of listening must be one of our persistent pursuits as far as a competency.


Listening well can lead to Open Doors

 Leaning into the Other’s Story
So often when one person shares something they experienced, their story is seldom entered into. You are likely familiar with the scenario. One person shares a story and as soon as they take a breath the next person jumps in with their story. I once heard this called “story stealing.”

Resisting the urge to tell my story on top of another person’s story takes some real self-awareness and restraint. A great gift in any sort of conversation, whether formal counseling or friendly chatting, is to lean into the other person’s story. Asking questions is the way forward on this path. We might ask for more details -“Tell me more about that.” Or we might explore deeper into the heart by asking about impact and feelings.

The simple gift of leaning into the other person and what they are sharing is a profound gift that we seldom extend to one another. For a shepherd, this is not only ground level care it is the richest of offerings.

The Gift of Listening
As my wife and I sat with our friend and plied her with questions about the decision before her, it was great joy to hear her verbalize insights and ideas. Of course, we did not have the answer for her on what she ought do. She is wise and made a good decision. What we could offer her was our presence with her as she processed. What this processing facilitates is the person coming to grasps with their own “answers.” This self-discovery is powerful. Far more effective than if I was the answer-man.

Shepherds: The skill of asking excellent questions can be learned. I often pay attention when I am reading a book in which the author raises great questions. I also take notes when I am in the presence of another one who asks the types of questions that invite deeper reflection. I always want to be learning more of this art of leaning into another’s story through asking questions that draw out the deep waters of their heart.

Listening is a self-sacrificing gift we offer to others. Who do you know who needs to be listened to today?


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2 Responses to The Gift of Leaning-In Listening

  1. Frauke Schaefer says:

    Hi Scott,

    Great post about listening and drawing people out. I notice that there are some “seductive ads” at the bottom of your posts. Likely completely unintended. Any way to get rid of those?



    • Scott S says:


      Thanks for the response. I am not seeing adds on our devices as we access the sight. Thank you for the heads up. I will look into it.



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