Thursday, May 17, 2018

The Listening Life #5 * The Giveaway Continues!

Everything we've read so far in The Listening Life aims us toward the powerful chapters we're focusing on this week.

For when we're truly connected to God and our own spiritual wells are filled to overflowing, we are able, by His grace, to authentically love others and have the miraculous ability to be fully present in their yearning and pain.

A core need of every person is to be heard, validated, and accepted right in the midst of their own messy unsettledness, confusion, or grief.  To have another sojourner faithfully walk with them over the long haul with no other agenda than to love and to listen ... while refusing to play God, offer pat answers, wave some kind of magic wand, or lob Scripture like a weapon?

This is sheer grace indeed.

Chapter 6 - Listening to Others
Let's head right over to page 139 to focus on one of the book's highlights - How to Be a Bad Listener.

Adam writes, 'Let's be honest: there is some bad listening going on out there.  The bigger problem may be that it's masquerading as good listening ... Here are a few of the usual suspects ...'

the one-up

the sleight of hand

the inspector

the reroute

the projector

the interrogation

the password

the hijack

the mechanic

the bone of contention

the deflector

the boomerang question

When you're done laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all, which of these twelve culprits do you find to be most irritating?  And which of these transgressors might you have unwittingly morphed into along the way?


'If you are using your silence to dwell on what is happening internally - to listen to your own inner monologue, to come up with more questions, to form a critique or a rebuttal, to prepare your own story or to otherwise focus less on what the other person is communicating and more on your thoughts about what the other person is communicating - then you are not listening well.'


Chapter 7 - Listening to People in Pain
'I once heard a ministry colleague say, "I'm going to be with a person in the hospital tonight.  Time to speak some truth."  This idea prevails in many Christian circles, that preaching is the healing balm for suffering.  Whether it's sickness or divorce or job loss, a crisis calls for some sound biblical exhortation.  I have a number of issues with this.  

First, it assumes that hurting people do not believe the right things or believe with enough fervency.  They may end up receiving the message that their faith is not strong enough for them to see their situation rightly, or that something is wrong with them because they are struggling.  

Second, preaching to people in pain preys on the vulnerable.  It's stabbing the sword of truth into their wound or doing surgery without anesthesia.  Unwelcome truth is never healing.  

Third, "speaking truth" into situations of pain is distancing.  You get to stand behind your pulpit or your intercessory prayer that sounds a lot like a sermon, and the other person is a captive audience, trapped in the pew of your anxious truth.  Suffering inevitably makes a person feel small and isolated, and preaching to them only makes them feel smaller and more alone, like a scolded child.'


The Giveaway
Our esteemed author is giving away a free signed copy of The Listening Life to one reader who leaves a book review of The Listening Life at

Click here and scroll down to Customer Reviews to share your perspective.  {You need to have either purchased the book at or spent $50 at over the last three months.}

And then be sure to say 'hi' to Adam in the comment section of one of The Listening Life posts and let him know you left a review.  The giveaway winner will be selected on Wednesday, May 30th.

If you've been following the series but haven't purchased the book, it's not too late ... go for it!

P.S.  Having trouble leaving comments?  A few readers have let me know that's been their experience.  Simply email me {lindastoll @ juno . com} whatever you have to say and I'll be oh-so-happy to post it for you.


  1. We just discussed letting others state their case, without comment or insertion. I will look into this book!
    Blessings, My Friend!

    1. Oh good, Lulu! I hope it touches you somewhere deep like it's done for me. Pretty much life-changing ...

  2. Oh Linda, I am learning I'm not near as good of a listener as I thought... :( I felt the most convicted in Chapter 7. I've always wanted people to feel better about themselves, so I'm prone to try to "fix" their feelings. Kind of like Karrie did with Sarah in the example:
    Sarah: “I’m worthless.”
    Karri: “No, you’re not.”
    Sarah: “No one loves me.”
    Karri: “Yes, they do.”
    Sarah: “God hates me.”
    Karri: “No, he doesn’t. He loves you.”
    Sarah: “I can’t do anything right. I’m a failure.”
    Karri: “No, you’re not. Look at all you’ve accomplished!”
    I often jump to assuring people how special they are instead of acknowledging how badly they must feel and sit in their grief with them. I love how Adam describes a person in pain as being in a storm. It's not our job to bring them out of the storm, but to sit and get drenched along with them. I love, too, his definition of empathy - "Empathy chooses to enter into the dark places of another’s world, to shiver in the cold with them, and to wait with them." Thank you for this book study! I truly need it. Love and hugs to you!

    1. I absolutely hear what you're saying, Trudy. Much of our ineffective / bad listening doesn't stem from hard or callous hearts. Probably just the opposite.

      It's because our hearts are tender that we can't bear to see another soul in pain. And all our efforts to whisk that away only prove to boomerang back on us and them.

      It's easier to assure someone than to sit together with what is true, isn't it ...

  3. I can really relate to not preaching to people in pain; I've been told SO often that if I had just a little bit of faith, I'd be healed...and in that closing ellipsis is a criticism.

    I would say, though, that I don't feel small and isolated. Quite the opposite; I've come to realize in all immodesty that very, very few people could keep to the activity level I still accomplish with this much pain. I see myself as giving comfort from a position of strength...and wow, does that come across as arrogant as I re-read it!

    But I'll let it stand, because to me, it's true.

    1. And you may be alot of things, but arrogant you're not!


      I really value your take on this since you're right in the midst of the storm. I'd love it if you come back and continue the conversation, man ...

      You could write a book on this subject alone. But I guess you're doing that on your blog, aren't you. And look at the countless souls you've impacted in the process.

      Talk about redemption ...

    2. Well, sure, Linda. There's more to say.

      When you're listening to a person in pain, it's important to listen to what he or she really IS saying, rather than listening to your on internal monologue of what you think they should say...or what you think you'd say if the roles were reversed.

      And don't try to 'read between the lines' to match your preconceptions.

      Case in point - people expect me to be depressed that I'm dying, that I'm in horrible pain, and that great pieces of my life have come apart. They don't WANT to accept the fact that I'm really OK with it, and not resentful.

      Everything I say on the subject tends to get filtered through that expectation, and my words are often twisted into a different shape, one that allows the conclusions "he's really depressed but won't admit it" or "he's delusional".

      I suspect part of the reason is fear; no one is truly comfortable around pain and death, and I, too, would have probably reacted more to how I think (or fear) how I might handle the situation, rather than to what the other person's saying.

      But the reality is that I AM OK with this, and that it's not a big deal, and life can still be good.

      So yeah, listen to my words, and don't parse my meanings.

    3. This here, Andrew -->'or what you think you'd say if the roles were reversed.' And yes, our preconceptions.

      I think this is especially noteworthy to those of us who are professionals or in the people-helping fields. We tend to get ahead of ourselves, believing we've got it all figured out because we've got a bunch of initials after our names and a hefty case load under our belts.

      That's foolish pride at best ... and dangerous analysis at worst.

      And just because any of us might have experienced something traumatic along the way, doesn't mean that everyone else will have the same response.

      You're absolutely right, fear is a major player. I've yet to see a wise decision made from a place of fear.

      Thanks for sitting with us on this. Feel free to jump in whenever you want as the conversation goes on ...

      You've got alot of fans in this neck of the woods.

  4. Ugh, sometimes I'm unaware when I'm doing the non-listening things, but other things I know it as it's happening and fight to undo it. This week I was listening to someone and my mind continued to wander again and again. I was hoping he wouldn't notice how hard I was trying to listen but failing. lol.

    1. Interesting about knowing it's happening and trying to fight to undo it!


      Yet one more thing we're thinking about!


  5. The line that says "Unwelcome truth is never healing." is so powerful. You have to know when to speak the truth, when the person is ready to hear it. Otherwise it just closes them down more. You have to earn their trust for them to be ready to "hear the truth". Also, make sure you are the right person to impart the truth. Maybe it would be better to come from someone else.

    1. Good point, Marilyn, that maybe more often than not, it's not necessarily our place /role to be the dispenser of truth.

      Sometimes? Yes. I guess this calls for huge discernment ... and the release of any thought that we are the Holy Spirit.

  6. Yes, these chapters have been incredibly convicting to me, especially the fact that if you're allowing your inner voices to interrupt true listening, you aren't listening at all. And offering platitudes (or scriptural lectures) when someone is in pain? Ouch is right! My experience is that a person in pain simply wants your presence, your quiet and undivided attention. They know you can't "fix" anything, so when you try to, they will definitely shut down.
    This is a book I will have to revisit time and time again until I truly learn to listen fully with my heart.
    Blessings, Linda!

    1. And we're all in process, aren't we, Martha. Just yesterday I had to apologize to a daughter for dispensing unasked for advice. I should have just shut up and kept my observations to myself.

      The abbreviated version of Psalm 39:1 should be my life verse - 'I will put a muzzle on my mouth ...'


  7. Chapter 6 was huge for me because I am always inside my head, and need to remember to let my thoughts rest and truly listen. This is key: "There is always more to learn about another person." This applies even to the people whose stories we have heard a million times, and especially to our immediate family.
    My notes on chapter 7 center around the Bonhoeffer quote (which I just used in a parenting class we taught back in March) and my notations ended with this: "Memorize this chapter."
    Thanks for taking the time to meet with us here, Linda! Happy weekend!

    1. 'Memorize this chapter.'


      Well said, friend ...

      And 'yes, please' to realizing that our family's stories and sagas are always worth investing ourselves in.

  8. Chapter 7 made me think of a time God allowed me to listen well (there are few of them!). A good friend had just miscarried and I knew I needed to be with her but I had never lost a child, so I had absolutely no idea what to say or do. So, I just sat with her and cried with her. Later, as she healed, she told me how much she appreciated that I didn't try to tell her that she'd have more children, or that God would see her through, etc. It was certainly not because I was so smart! Rather, it was out of my ineptness that God was able to use me!

    1. Just sitting quietly, no words, just tears.

      You're absolutely right, Stace, this has nothing to do with brilliance and everything to do with simply being present with no agenda except to love.

      Looking back, those are the moments that we'll hold most closely. For sure.

  9. I love the quote you selected from chapter 7. I think a lot of the time people do this because they are trying to help but I know, from being on the receiving end, that it's more likely to leave the person feeling that they are to blame for their struggles or there's something wrong with them. The temptation to try to "fix" it can be strong at times but it is more powerful when we can put that aside and really listen to how a person is feeling.

    1. You're so right, Lesley ... our best learning lessons come when we find ourselves on the receiving end of bad listening.

      And we finally realize that no, this is not what I need when I am wounded, stunned, grieving, at a loss.

      I've been on both sides of this story. And I'm still learning, ya' know?


  10. I despise the "hijacker" listener, Linda. I've met quite a few in my lifetime and, sadly, try to avoid them from then on out! I was asked recently what is a secret talent that I have, and I said listening. I really love to listen--listen deeply and draw out the matters of the heart. I guess it's what counselors are trained to do, but I've always excelled at this. Not that I'm bragging by any means. It's just how God has wired me.

    I also agree with your thoughts on not preaching to those who are hurting. It's the time to lend a shoulder to cry on, not to "hijack" the moment for a sermon on trusting God more. Thanks for your tireless work to resource and inspire us, my friend!

    1. From personal experience, I can absolutely vouch for you as a gifted listener! It made me feel like I had known you forever after just a few hours together. And I do recall that I felt comfortable sharing things with you that I probably would have said to very few others.

      Our relationship is blogging at its best, Beth. I am so grateful our paths continue to cross, our prayers for each other continue to go up, and we know that we're there for each other even across many hundreds of miles.


  11. Linda - I so enjoy your emails and very much loving The Listening Life. Thank you for the motivation to read these great books.

    {via snail mail}

    1. You've encouraged me greatly today! I never know who's reading the email version of these posts unless people tell me. You've made my day!


      Blessings on you guys. I'm praying even as we speak ...

  12. I am guilty way too many times of being a reroute or projector listener. These chapters had so many truths that I need to hear again and again. I do think that like he said being around good listeners helps you be a better listener. In chapter 7, he says,"People in pain are unlikely to hear unless they have first felt heard." This is true for so many conversations. Praying I will be a good listener today to my students, husband, and friends.

    1. So true that being around good listeners helps us be better listeners ourselves. That's yet one more reason why this dialogue matters. And I'm so glad you're part of it, TJ!