I struggle with selfishness. It is often hard for me to put aside my own thoughts to focus on the people right in front of me. I find myself halfway through a conversation and realizing I haven’t listened to what the person across from me is saying. 

It’s not that I don’t care, I do. I truly want to connect with people around me, so why does my mind wander during conversations? Sometimes I latch on to one thing they say and then my thoughts go rogue thinking of how to respond. It doesn’t take long before I lose the thread of the conversation since I’m no longer listening to them. instead choosing to have an internal discussion with myself. 

I’ve done enough research to know I’m not alone and there are reasons why my brain jumps around like that. But it’s no excuse for not working to improve my listening skills. 

Habitually failing to listen is a fatal flaw to building relationships and creating trust and connection. Developing a more others-centered focus is something I am working on. One way is to ask myself what the other person needs from our interaction. Because to answer the question, “What do you need?” requires listening, attentiveness, and focus on what the other person is saying, how they are saying it, and noticing the small things in their body language and tone.  

Jesus is our perfect example of how we can help people simply by seeing and responding to their needs. There are many instances recorded in the Bible of Him healing those who cross His path. Jesus, of course, knew their need even before they made their request, but He always listened to them and would sometimes even ask them what they wanted. Then He would heal them or answer their questions or tell a parable that led them to truth. 

I’ll never be perfect, I can’t solve everyone’s problems, but sometimes all people need is to know that someone cares enough to stop and really listen. 

“A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”
Mark 1:40-41

From this single example, I can see a pattern to begin applying in my life:

This formula works in any situation. It works with friends, family, new acquaintances, co-workers, and strangers. Simply asking yourself, “what does this person need?” can be such a help in creating a mindset focused on listening with compassion. The answer to this question tells me how best to reach out and respond to that need. 

Do they need a hug, firm and loving direction, encouragement, correction, a word of hope, inspiration, or healing? 

I know that if I honor God by loving the people He brings into my path, then He’ll give me the words and actions that guide people into His care. This will glorify Him for any healing of mind, body, or soul that takes place.

I can rest in the knowledge that God will provide the words I need to speak. I don’t need to work through what I want to say in response to them while they are still talking. I simply need to listen and then let God speak through me. I like that; it takes the pressure off me to be perfect, say the right thing, or read their minds. I can rest in God’s care and trust that He’ll work through me to help others in ways that I can’t even comprehend.

This week, my goal is to keep the question, “What do you need” in the forefront of my mind when speaking with others. I won’t be perfect. I’ll slip into old habits. But I can make progress.

May seeing the needs of others spark compassion and connection with those around us.