Small Group Tip #16: Active Listening

By Bill Search

Great discussions involve two key pieces: the first is asking good questions, but the second is active listening. Let me give you some counsel on how to be an active listener.


Look at the person who's talking.

Make eye contact with them. Don't thumb furiously through your copy of the scriptures, answer e-mails on your phone, or talk to your neighbor. Look at the person who's talking.


Don’t interrupt.

My mother used to always say, "You listen with your ears not with your mouth." If you're talking, then you're not listening so don't interrupt the person who's talking.


Seek to understand, not judge.

This one's a little tricky for some of us because we're used to sort of making judgment calls. We're used to listening to people and the whole time thinking, "Is that right? Or maybe that’s wrong?" After the person is done talking, we have the tendency to say, "Let me push back on that," or "I'm not sure I agree with you," or "I'm not so certain about that." But instead of immediately judging them, do the fourth thing.


Ask follow up questions.

Ask the person, "Could you clarify that? Could you help me understand that a little bit better? Could you help shed more light? Could you say that in a different way?"

Asking those follow up questions will help that person know that you really want to know what they have to say and that you want to understand them. We all tend to be imprecise in what we say and how we say it, so we usually need those follow up questions to help us clarify what we're trying to communicate.

These are very simple things that you can do to be an active listener in your group and enjoy a great discussion.

*This is the sixteenth post in a series of 27 Tips for Small Group Leaders


BILL SEARCH is the author of Simple Small Groups. He has served in ministry for nearly 20 years. Bill loves spending time with his family, drinking great coffee, listening to jazz, and enjoying the great outdoors.