Listen with Humility

“Listen with Humility,” Topics and Questions (2023)

man and woman sit on a park bench while woman talks and man is listening

Helping Others with Their Questions

Listen with Humility

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland recalled, “[President Russell M. Nelson] told me once that one of the first rules of medical inquiry is ‘Ask the patient where it hurts. The patient,’ he said, ‘will be your best guide to a correct diagnosis and eventual remedy.’”1 When a friend or family member reaches out to you with difficult questions or concerns about the Church, take time to listen. They are reaching out to you because they trust you. Reward that trust by seeking first to understand their needs.

Listening with humility is hard to do. It requires focus and patience. But it’s a skill we can learn. Active listening and making a genuine connection can be healing for someone who is sharing a vulnerability or question. Try some of the following listening practices to better hear and understand your loved ones:

  • Seek first to understand. We often think we know how to resolve others’ concerns. We want to just answer their questions and tell them to stop worrying. This impulse is often centered on us rather than on their needs. Spend time listening to the story of how they arrived where they are today. Make sure you understand their questions. Show respect if you learn their views are contrary to your own. Avoid criticizing them or making accusations. When we are quick to offer a simplistic answer, they might feel like we are minimizing their experience. The best place to start is by seeking to understand their point of view rather than trying to change it.

  • Acknowledge their experience. Even though we may not understand or agree with another’s concerns, we can acknowledge their sincerity and the pain they might be feeling. In an effort to show empathy, we sometimes draw comparisons between their experiences and our own. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience is different. It may be better to say something like, “I can’t imagine what you are feeling” or “Help me understand.”

  • Avoid being dismissive or judgmental. By the time a friend or loved one has decided to talk to you about their questions, they have most likely spent time privately researching and thinking. Be careful not to shut down the conversation by dismissing their questions or making judgments. This may be hurtful to them and to your ability to help. Their sincere questions deserve your sincere effort to listen.

  • Keep your emotions in check. It’s normal to feel anxious or concerned when a loved one approaches you with questions about their faith. Try not to let these emotions get in the way of a productive conversation. If you feel angry, it’s probably better to ask if you can take a break and continue the conversation a little later. The Savior counseled us to avoid contention and anger.2 We can learn to disagree without being disagreeable.3

  • Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions encourage others to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. They don’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer. For example: “Can you tell me more?” “How do you feel about that?” “Can you help me understand?” “What can I do to help?” Asking good questions shows that you care and will help you avoid misunderstanding.

  • Acknowledge your limitations. There’s a good chance that friends and loved ones who come to you will have studied more widely about their questions than you have. It’s OK if you don’t have ready answers or if this is the first time you have learned about something. Don’t be afraid to ask questions that clarify something you didn’t understand. You might not agree with all their conclusions, but try to agree with what you can without misrepresenting your feelings. You can also ask for time to study the topic yourself and then continue the discussion when you have more information.

Key scriptures: Ephesians 4:29; Mosiah 18:21; 3 Nephi 11:29