Three very simple words, but believe it or not, these three words can be a serious game-changer. In fact, some would suggest that every young person is dying to here these words and that they're the three most loving words in the English language. In a world of instant messaging, click-to-like feedback, and emoji responses, we have lost the art of listening. We often default to the language of pragmatism (being quick to solve problems) and have forgotten how to speak the language of presence (being quick to sympathize and understand). So what are the three words that everyone in all life stages long to have spoken to them?
Tell me more.
Too simple? Just try it.
In at least one conversation over the next seven days, look for an opportunity to address these words to a friend, a neighbor, a child, your spouse. And do so with unquestionable sincerity, i.e. speak it with a genuine desire to hear more. Let your body language and tone of voice align with those words to show undivided attention and interest, and watch what happens. Tell me more.
My guess is you'll discover more about not just the other person's day or experiences that day, but you'll probably discover a bond and an understanding that will surprise you. It surprised me too when I first began slipping in this phrase in my car-ride conversations with my daughter after picking her up from school. It wasn't about interrogating, it was just about being interested. Her one word answers of "fine" and "good" turned into stories that expressed excitement and sometimes disappointment. It gave her a chance to share without having to feel like she had to measure up to anything in particular.
Learn to Listen
As a preacher and teacher of the gospel, my radar is always up for more effective ways to share with and bless others, especially when it comes to best practices for communicating truth. And this isn't just true for preachers and teachers. Most Christians I know have a burden to share with others but often feel insecure about their ability to communicate or their knowledge of what to communicate with their friends and family. But what if the first thing people need to hear from us is not our preaching but our presence? I wonder if the simplicity of these three words -- Tell me more -- can remind us that
...before being concerned about what to say to people, we ought to educate our hearts to be concerned about people.
I believe Jesus modeled this kind of approach to people. The stories I've been reading in the gospels lately have reminded me that frequently Jesus' first words to people were questions. Think about that. The Creator asking His creation a question. Questions like "Where are you?" or "Who touched Me?" or "Who do people say that I am?" did not come from a position of ignorance but interest. The questions were door-openers, allowing for a story to be told and a bond of mutual understanding to give way to trust and teaching. Jesus was interested in people, interested in letting them tell their stories, and interested enough to actually stop crowds and hold off pressing appointments to both ask those questions and listen to responses.
Let me share two simple prayers that I'm learning to pray these days: God, give me a genuine interest in the people around me. And, God, give me time to actually listen. Would you join me in praying those prayers? May God increase our capacity to love and listen as we let others tell us more.