A note from Kelly King: Last week, Kaye gave us some practical listening skills that we need to develop in our leadership. In today’s article, she continues to expand on those principles and looks deeply into questions we must ask of those who are dealing with pain in their lives. Your response can not only provide emotional healing, but provide life through a relationship with Christ.
In caring for hurting women, there are specific skills and “tools of the trade” necessary for us to be effective. The foundational skill in your role of ministering to hurting women is listening. Equally important is how we respond to what we have heard. Last week we looked at a tool called Three-Way Listening. This week we will highlight some things to listen for as we seek to understand someone’s story and some helpful ways to respond well.
Here are seven things for you to listen for that will better inform what next steps you will take:
1. Listen for harm. In every conversation with people in pain, it is essential to know if you are in a high-risk conversation that needs immediate attention and support. Listen for three harms: Is the person being harmed, is she harming others, or is she considering harming herself? One way to assess this is to simply ask, “Are you having thoughts to harm yourself?” If she says yes, then follow up with, “On a scale of 1-10, how serious are you about hurting yourself?” If she responds with a high number, you will want to consult a professional or call 9-1-1.
2. Listen for confusion. Are they aware of reality and oriented to things going on around them? Are there bizarre thought patterns (paranoia, extreme viewpoints)? Is there evidence of short/long-term memory loss? Do they wander in their speech?
3. Listen for spiritual needs. Do they have the ability to see God at work and does this brings hope? Is there evidence of a spiritual connection to God or to a church community?
4. Listen for ownership. Have they taken actions to address their situation? Do they seem entitled? Do they blame everyone and everything? Do they exhibit an attitude of ownership or a victim mentality?
5. Listen for motivation. How open are they to engage in their own helping process? Are they willing to take steps, try new patterns, or stop unhelpful behaviors?
6. Listen for support systems. Do they have family, friends, and people they can lean into for help other than you? Is there anyone they can talk to?
7. Listen for hope. Does the person view God as a source of hope in their circumstances? Is prayer encouraging to them?
If someone is telling you their story, it implies that you’ve asked them a question about it or they’ve come to you first for help.
Here are a few tips as you seek to learn more:
1. Ask open-ended questions. Avoid yes/no questions whenever possible. Instead of, “Do you like your job?” try, “How are you feeling about your job?” Other good questions are, “What is your greatest fear?” or “Where did you grow up?”
2. Use guiding questions. Guiding questions help “soften” communication. For example, “Can you help me understand what he did to make you angry?” or “Could you tell me when things began to get difficult for you?”
3. Avoid leading questions. Example: No: “Don’t you think you should accept Christ today?” Yes: “Do you want to become a Christ-follower?” No: “Do you think your affair is hurting his family?” Yes: “What do you see as the ripple effect of your affair?”
4. Avoid why questions. Why questions imply judgment; avoid them!
Listening and responding well are two tools of the trade as you lead and minister to people in pain. When done well, they can be tools the Spirit uses to prompt and promote healing, help, hope, redemption, rescue, and freedom in someone’s life. Because of this, in my opinion, the enemy takes dead aim in these two areas. When we don’t listen well or when we respond carelessly, it can do tremendous harm. It is my belief there is a huge potential to do spiritual damage. The enemy knows this which is why he undermines our efforts to do it well. Let’s “be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11b, NASB). I encourage you to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19b NIV).
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.