Becoming the Listener Your Friend Needs

How to be a good listener


Sarah and Charlene were sitting at a table for two at an outdoor café.  They’d sipped coffee and shared small talk and now Sarah was ready to broach the subject of something personal that she needed to get off her chest.  “Charlene, I’m so glad we were finally able to get together.  I’ve been going through something really tough and have needed a friend to share it with because I feel so overwhelmed.”  Sarah cupped her warm mug with both hands as she let out a sigh.  Charlene smiled at her friend and responded, “Sure!  I’m glad I can be here for you.”

Sarah began to share what was on her heart.  But, Charlene was easily distracted by the buzzing of her cell phone and began reading messages from someone else.  Now, instead of giving Sarah her undivided attention, Charlene was constantly glancing at the screen and her facial expressions revealed that she was more interested in those messages than in what her friend was sharing.  Sarah’s heart sank as her words trailed off.  Charlene hadn’t even noticed that Sarah had stopped talking.

The Importance of Being a Good Listener

I’ve been there.  Have you?  It’s hard to find someone who’ll really listen when you need it.  Everyone’s so busy, distracted and maybe even disinterested.  Yet the world is full of people who want to be heard, to be understood.

I’ll admit, though, that I’ve been on the other side of the table.  Willfully distracted while my friend struggled to share the hurt they were going through, and not really connecting with them, unwilling to go the extra mile to truly understand them.

You’ve been there, too, haven’t you?

Cultivating relationships requires a number of key components, but one of the most important is listening well.  One of the most frustrating things that can happen in a conversation between two people is when one person is talking and the other is people-watching or looking at their smart phone: totally disconnected.

Words aren’t merely words.  There is always meaning behind them.  There’s always emotion connected to them.  You don’t have to be a psychologist to know how to listen well.  A college education is not required.

Words aren’t merely words.  There is always meaning behind them.


How to be a Listener who has Eternity in Mind

If you do a web search on “How to be a good listener” the results you’ll find are numerous. Website after website will offer countless ways to enhance your listening skills.  Yet, in the world we find very few people who actually practice these skills.

I’d like to offer my two cents, but with a twist:  How to be a listener who has eternity in mind.  You see, it’s not enough just to sit with a friend and hear them talk.  We need to keep in mind that we are vessels that God wants to use to show love and hope.

Sometimes you’ll know ahead of time that a friend wants to talk to you about something they have on their mind.  Other times it may seem like it’s coming out of left field.  Either way you can prepare yourself to be the listener your friend needs.

Realize and accept the following:

→ They are trusting you with immensely personal thoughts that they’ve, quite possibly, no intention of sharing with anyone else.

→ Unless they come right out and say it, they are not asking you for answers or wanting you to solve their problem.

→ They ache for someone to just understand them and to share their burden because it’s gotten too heavy.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.  But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10

The Keys to Being a Good Listener

Here are some steps to follow when taking time to listen to your friend:

→ Pray.  Do this silently as your friend begins to share and throughout your time together.  Ask God to help them verbalize what they’re trying to communicate.  Pray that you may be able to capture the heart of the matter and that, if needed, that God would give you the precise words and actions needed to respond so that you’re friend is filled with hope.

→ Put the smart phone away.  Put it far enough away from you so that the buzzing of incoming messages or phone calls will not distract you.  Let your spouse and/or children know ahead of time that you can’t be interrupted.

→ Make eye contact. And keep it.  If the eyes are the window to the soul this is your chance to really connect with your friend.  You’ll be able to read their emotions as well as confirm for them that you really care about them and what they are trying to communicate.

→ Don’t interrupt. You may be tempted to share something similar that has happened to you.  Don’t.  Keep focusing on them.

→ Ask questions only when they are stumbling to verbalize something.  You may be intrigued by something that your friend is saying and be tempted to ask follow-up questions.  This can lead to going down rabbit trails that have nothing to do with the heart of the matter.  Realize that if you do this you are doing it for your own curiosity and not for your friend’s best interest.  Ask questions like, “How did that make you feel?” when you sense that they are struggling to pinpoint an emotion or make sense out of a confusing situation.

→ Don’t judge.  As their story unfolds, you may hear things that you don’t agree with, obvious sins that you know offend God.  You must trust that God is already at work in their lives and that now is not the time to point those sins out.  Your job is to listen.

→ Take mental notes.  As you listen to your friend identify key themes they’ve touched on.  When they’ve finished sharing repeat back to them what you think they meant and ask them to clarify anything you may have misinterpreted.  Doing this will help with two things: 1. Your friend will be able to hone in on the true heart of the matter so that they are able to move forward.  2. They will know and be comforted by the fact that you have connected with them on a deeper level.

→ Pray with them. Don’t just pray for them. Pray with them.  Invite your friend to express their heart directly to God.  If they accept the invitation it means they are willing to take a step forward towards healing. Then take a moment to pray for them, reciting back to God his promises to his children and asking him to perform a supernatural work in the situation.

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Romans 12:15


As Christians we are called to “love one another” (John 13:34) and one concrete way we can do that is to listen, really listen, when our friends need us to.  It’s not as easy as you think it is.  It means we need to be selfless.  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”  (Philippians 2:3, 4)  We must be like Christ, who humbled himself for our sake.


Listening with eternity in mind means that we are ministering to our friends in such a way that Christ is honored and imitated.  It means that we love another person the way that God calls us to love them.  It means forgetting our own needs for a while so that another soul feels that they matter, that they are understood.

Your goal, in becoming the listener your friend needs, is to point them to God.  By the time you and your friend have finished sharing they will have felt the embrace of their Heavenly Father.  They should walk away feeling a sense of eternal hope and a peace that this world cannot comprehend.

My prayer is that we all become the listeners our friends need.  What a privilege we have to be able to be used of God in this way. We don’t have to be perfect, just willing to be a vessel.

Be blessed…be a blessing!


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Becoming the Listener

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56 thoughts on “Becoming the Listener Your Friend Needs

    1. Yes love that article and when I was with me husband he would go on for hours and was very anxious. I could not cope with him and did spend a lot of time on face book. But I don’t do that with my friend s. What helps me was colouring as I could listen and colour at same time and feel relaxed.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow, this is so good! I’ve felt that stab when I’m sharing something personal only to realize my friend isn’t really listening. Sometimes I feel like I want to tell a story about myself that I think relates when a friend is sharing with me. But this is a great reminder that what they need most is someone to listen. I also agree that praying with the person right there, is so healing.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Wonderful tips, Summer! Several years ago, I was reading a character building lesson to my kids on attentiveness and was convicted by the material. It said to be attentive you need to look the speaker in the eye. Since then I try to do that. It makes a difference in making the other person feel valued.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, this is such a needed post for me, as I strive to minister to my family, those at my church, and those at my job! Thank you for helping me to listen better through your words in this post! May God bless you mightily!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Loved this! I’m always that friend who internalizes being dismissed because I make it a priority to listen to others and I like to receive that same courtesy! But I so agree with the premise of pointing your friends to Christ.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Summer, good article and great points. I think our cell phones get in the way of real connection more times than I can count. I appreciate you taking the time to write this article and include helpful tips for us all so we can all strive to be better listeners. I always tell people, be the type of listener you would want listening to you. Blessings, I am sharing this post on my social media. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  6. SO good! I wasn’t always a great listener. I was so self-absorbed. But as I’ve aged, I’ve really tried to work on this. Today I try hard to be the listener I’d want to be. I give my friend/spouse/colleague/child/random stranger my full attention and try my best to tune out all distractions.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I meet with a group of women each week and am amazed at how often I see this situation play out. The distractions of smartphones, especially, can completely destroy any trust or willingness someone else might have to share something that’s bothering them. I make a big point to always have my phone on silent and turn it over or keep it in my bag so notifications won’t distract me from what really matters: that relationship with the person in front of me. Such great tips – thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. What an awesome reminder!
    You always hear the quote – “People listen to respond, not to understand.”
    It’s so true. I’ve always considered myself a good listener, but I’ve never really thought about the concept of “Christ-like” listening. I love that! It’s really something to think about!
    Thank you so much for sharing, Summer! Great read, as usual! 🖤

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love this! It is very relevant!! I like this perspective, “How to be a listener who has eternity in mind.” As a Christian counselor, I find that many people don’t really need a counselor they just need a friend who would listen. Listening is an art and requires practice. I notice that even when my husband and I are talking, phones are a distraction. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Great tips! And yes so important … and a dying “art” – listening.

    And yes it’s really special – especially these days – when someone actually talks in person about something on their hearts.. we should treasure it for how precious that is by being wonderful listeners.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I love this – “How to be a listener who has eternity in mind.” You have so many important points in this article. I try to do this with my family as well as my friends. It was frightening to me how tied I was to my cell phone. It wasn’t until I became frustrated with my husband for looking at his cell phone while I tried to talk to him that I realized I do that to people, too! No more!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Thanks for these tips, Summer. One thing I struggle with is when someone just doesn’t stop talking…then my mind starts to wonder. I’m trying some different strategies to help with this, though. Not sure if they are working **SIGH**.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Great tips, Summer! Thank you for sharing! I know I need to work on not commenting with a story of my own and not asking questions before they’re finished.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes! I am finding more and more that there are so many people who lack true friendship and also there are those who never learned what true friendship is all about. Thanks for reading, Lauren!


  14. As a registered clinical counsellor your call for people to listen well resonated with me. It is sad, but so often in counselling clients reveal that it is the first time someone has really listened to them. People generally tend to be better at talking, yet listening to others is such an affirmation that they matter and what they are sharing matters. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

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