Part of being sensitive to another person’s feelings is knowing when to speak, what to say, and when to keep quiet. This requires prayerful discernment.
In 1992, a woman I highly respected wanted to share some insights with me about a difficult decision my husband and I were facing. I had a feeling I knew what she’d have to say, and I believed her ideas would be good ones, but I wasn’t ready to receive them at that moment. I told her perhaps we could talk, sometime. This is what I later wrote in my journal: “I was thankful I didn’t have to hear (her ideas) today, because I was feeling a little weary. I trust God to hold off on the conversation until He has prepared my heart. This again illustrates why I need to wait on the Lord whenever I have something I want to share with someone that they may not be ready to hear. Gods timing is so essential!”
Many years later, I needed to be reminded of this. I had a good friend who was going through some difficult trials and felt overwhelmed and confused. My intentions were good (namely, wanting to help her), but I was guilty of giving unsolicited advice or sharing opinions she wasn’t ready to hear. I had to learn to simply be a good listener, reflect what I was hearing, and then help her probe her own thoughts.
Here are some basic guidelines on the topic.
- Pray for wisdom and sensitivity to the other person’s feelings.
Are they tired? Hungry? Grumpy? Feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, or upset? At such times, its best just to be a sympathetic listener.
2. If they ask for advice, but we suspect they aren’t ready to hear what we would have to say, instead of giving our opinion, ask questions. Help them to see what they’re feeling and thinking. Let them discover, through our questions, what the root issues are and what’s hindering them from taking appropriate action.
I doubt that I will perfectly master these skills in this life- time, but I’m diligently working on it, and I’m improving. Thankfully, Gods grace is sufficient to make up for my mistakes.