Pause Your Agenda for Better Listening

Is your personal agenda getting in the way of listening well to your neighbors?

Relationships beg for authentic lifestyle (our talk and walk match up), transparency (a view into our lifestyle), and vulnerability (the willingness to share bad with the good). The idiom “garbage in, garbage out” holds true in our conversations with our neighbors. If we want our neighbors to be defensive, we’ll hit them over the head with what is right. If we want to understand our neighbor’s core issues, we’ll pause our agendas and listen intently.

Love for our neighbor trumps our agenda every time.


3 Ways to Pause Our Agenda

Make Relationship, not agenda, your top priority. For all of us this requires a shift in mindset. A relational mindset pauses our agenda, because without relationship, we have not been given license to talk about our neighbor’s core issues, or our own for that matter.

Key Question: Will this conversation end quickly, depending on what my neighbor thinks of my agenda, or will it last however long is needed to lay the foundations for an authentic relationship?

Be truth first, speak truth later. If our neighbors perceive inconsistency between what we do and what we say, we create a distraction that renders our message moot. The saying “actions speak louder than words” has no better application than when Jesus followers listen to their neighbors. Of the kinds of noise that can enter a conversation, a mismatch between what we say and how we act diminishes trust the most because we are not perceived as trustworthy.

We can pause our agenda by bringing our words and actions into alignment. Doing so creates a platform from which we can launch long-lasting authentic relationships – the kind of relationships that allow us to discuss with our neighbors the meatiest, most core issues of life. If we will be truth first, we will have opportunity to speak truth later.

Key Question: Is how I behave congruent with what I say?

Listen as a Learner. We can pause our agenda by listening as learners. Learners have many qualities that make them exceptional listeners. Here are four…

  • As learners, we understand that every conversation is part of a larger context that either muddies or adds clarity to what is being spoken and heard. We understand how the context will shape the meaning of conversations we have with neighbors.
  • As learners, we value the contribution of our neighbors and will actively listen for our own transformation as much as for the transformation of our neighbors. We see the difficultly of pursuing our own agenda when we recognize that our neighbors have something to teach us as well. This levels the playing field, allowing more authenticity and vulnerability between us and our neighbors.
  • As learners, we are slow to judge because we know that the more quickly we reach judgement, the more quickly we stop learning. Without learning, we will not have relationships. Any relationship we have, be it with friends, family, or neighbors, requires constant learning on our part. When we stop investing in people through learning about them, our relationship with them evaporates. Judgement is the great terminator of relationships.
  • As learners, we make the effort to listen even when what is said is disagreeable or offensive to us. This can be hard work and tiring. Learners will hang in there, always seeking to understand. Our neighbor will know whether we are listening by observing our non-verbal communication.

Key Question: What qualities do I have that suggest I am a learner?

What to do now: Have a conversation with a neighbor in which you pause your agenda and listen as a learner. Make an effort to understand your context, be slow to judge, and appreciate your neighbor’s contribution.

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