“A person who lives right has more power in his silence than another has by words.”  ~Phillips Brooks

My gal pal Elyssa shines and sparkles as a friend-extraordinaire. Not only is she a consummate giver, she breathes in the Spirit and breathes out grace to everyone in her circle of influence. While I admire her for these reasons and a hundred more, I admire her most because she is a true social artist.

More specifically, she is a social artist ninja.

This doesn’t mean she’s necessarily extroverted or wildly demonstrative. I wouldn’t call her a social butterfly, although as a pastor’s wife she brilliantly maneuvers various social situations. Rather she is a social artist ninja because she is masterful at focusing on you, and doing so in such a fashion you never saw yourself become the center of attention.

Last summer when Elyssa and her family traveled through town, our family had the pleasure of playing host. During their stay, I resolved to keep my eyes and ears alert to Elyssa’s social ninja moves. I made it my goal to purposefully direct conversations towards her because I wanted to practice being as others-centered as she.

I started out not too shabby, keenly aware and focused on my mission. But one evening during dinner – somewhere between the king ranch chicken and homemade apple pie – she asked a subtle, simple question. I don’t remember what it was, but her question touched me deeply. Before I knew it, I found my own voice going on and on about me and my big life.

The social artist ninja strikes again.

I laugh about it now and take comfort knowing a hallmark of great conversations is this happening both ways, when both people give and take. But if I’m going to err, I would rather err on the side of listening more and talking less. Elyssa does this beautifully because her life speaks of this truth:

She puts others first.

“Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”

~ Philippians 2: 3-4 {the Message}

In this world of i-everything, it’s hard to remember I need to forget about me.

I remember I am called to lend a helping hand as the Spirit moves us, not lay down doormat-style to abuse. I want no part of that. But if I do want to cultivate a lifestyle that embraces others and runs from narcism – that puts others first – then I must be a listener who cares and participates in conversations through quiet engagement. This doesn’t mean I sit mute, it just means I make my words count.

Humility is the heartbeat of all encouragement, and it takes humility to sit with hands and heart open and lips closed. 

It takes a social artist.

Putting arms around others – welcoming them into the fold with a listening ear – unfolds God’s pleasureMay it be natural for me to embrace others by listening, to actively resolve to be quietly involved in conversations. And in doing so, may the Savior have room to enter in as the real center of attention.

In conversations, do you find it easy or difficult to listen more than speak? How do you actively resolve to be quietly involved in listening?

Kristen Strong, listening with both ears at Chasing Blue Skies

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  1. 2

    I love this, Kristen! Thank you! “Humility is the heartbeat of all encouragement, and it takes humility to sit with hands and heart open and lips closed.” Just beautiful!

    Yes, this is what I want my life to look like! It is so easy for me to talk and share and give insights and answers. Which, yes, this has it’s time and place. But I, too, want to learn to be others’ centered FIRST!

    Reminding myself of James’ encouragement to be QUICK to listen and sloooooow to speak, and Paul’s challenge to look not only to my own interests but to the interests of others, is what helps me to be the kind of friend and listener my heart longs for in return.

    • 3

      Ah, thank you for reminding me of James and Paul’s words, Becky. Yes and yes!

      I’m so thankful to have you in this community, Becky. Much love to you.

  2. 4

    I struggle with asking the right questions, the kind that open a dialogue rather than close it. I find myself listening and responding with pat answers, rather than delving deeper. It sounds as if your friend Elyssa is a ninja at both;)

    • 5

      I know exactly what you’re talking about, Kimberly. It’s hard, isn’t it?

      I’m so thankful for you here. You are always so encouraging ~ a light!

  3. 6

    “unfolds god’s pleasure”. that phrase is art kristen.

    and “to actively resolve to be quietly involved in conversations. And in doing so, may the Savior have room to enter in as the real center of attention.” — me too please. going to tuck your resolution into my pocket and make it mine too. thank you. –kris

  4. 8
    Andrea says:

    Thank you so much for this. I needed the reminder that I need to slow down a bit and listen around me. Be less caught up in me and my crazy busy life….. Thank you!

  5. 10

    I have a “social artist ninja” friend too! I just didn’t know what to call her until now!! : ) Like you, I’ve tried to focus on her. But she’s tricky! And before you know it, I’m talking about me again!!!

  6. 12

    I *try* to remember that I was given TWO ears and ONE mouth for a reason and I should use them proportionately.

  7. 14

    SO hard for me just to listen! Blame it on that only child, center-of-attention place in life I was born into & grew in. Add a huge dose of a career as a teacher & the resultant take-charge approach to life necessary to direct a classroom full of young folks. The result: a mouth & brain on auto-pilot. I have become more & more aware of this tendency & try hard to keep my mouth shut & really listen (though I’ve actually been told as teacher/counselor/friend that I am a good listener, so maybe I’m being a bit hard on myself).
    Still, I am trying to emulate my far quieter husband and just listen. I find it helps to focus on gazing into the other person’s eyes and really focusing on seeing inside and hearing her needs.
    Thanks for a good post and reminder.

    • 15

      Vivi, the kind way you show up here…offering your kind words of support while sharing your struggles too…I *know* you are a good listener. I know you’re a good friend, too. Thanks for being here, Vivi. You are so appreciated!

  8. 16

    Love your expression – simple and heartfelt. I lead a writer’s group once a month and at times have to stop and remind myself it’s not about me. Hard to do when you have so much to say. Have been told I’m a good listener and am aware of the importance of this. Thank you for the reminder. The old adage ” there’s a reason God gave us two ears and only one mouth” comes to mind.
    My prayer is that we all embrace the art of listening. Sometimes that’s all someone wants is your time. Blessings and peace.

  9. 18

    “A person who lives right has more power in his silence than another has by words.” This is a treasure today, from one of my very favorite social artists. I love you Kristen Strong.

  10. 20
    Christy says:

    Beautiful Kristen

  11. 22

    Kristen, you are so this!! Just in that brief conversation I had with you in the airport on the way back from Allume! Thank you for your beautiful encouragement and wise words here.

    • 23

      Jennifer, I’m trying. But ya know? I have a long ways to go.

      Just the same, thanks for your grace. You are such a treasure to this community here. Love you, sister!

  12. 24

    I have been praying about this very thing lately… I talk too much and dont listen enough. I want to learn more about others but fall back on this pesky little habit. I will be praying:

    “May it be natural for me to embrace others by listening, to actively resolve to be quietly involved in conversations.”

    Thanks for sharing!

  13. 25

    Thank you for this post. It is an area I think we all struggle with at times. I know that there are times – more so in the past – when I felt like if there was silence, folks would think I was boring. Not so.

    Living right shines through and volumes are read.

    Blessings, Debra

  14. 26
    Michelle Richmond says:

    I had learned to make it a habit of thinking of 5 questions to ask someone before I showed up to visit with them. Now, it is second nature to ask questions. My hubby asks me in the car on the way to visit someone to come up with questions for him to ask, since he is quieter by nature. Also, as I have matured, I have a deeper love for God’s people and that causes me to stop and hear their heart.
    As always, thanks for making me think about being more like Jesus, Kristen.

    • 27

      You are *brilliant* at hearing the hearts of others, friend. Brilliant! You listen with your heart and your eyes and your words reflect Jesus. And I’m thankful to have you as a good friend! xo

  15. 28

    Kristen, you are so this!! I learned this even in just in that brief conversation I had with you in the airport on the way back from Allume! Thank you for your beautiful encouragement and wise words here.

  16. 29
    Beth Williams says:

    I’m not a talker by nature, but at times find it hard to sit & listen without interrupting and putting in my 2 cents worth.

    I find it hard to come up with questions to ask people to try and delve deeper into their lives without sounding nosy. Loved loved loved the post Kristen~~~!

    • 30

      You bring up a good point, Beth. I don’t want to sound nosy or pushy, either. I have to rely on the Spirit’s leading as how to walk the fine line. I guess the difference is the intention behind the questions: Humility or nosy? I think it’s hard – or at least harder – to go wrong when you truly desire to hear the hearts of others.

      Thanks for your encouragement, Beth. You are a dear and a treasure!

  17. 31

    I plan to spend more time in meditation and prayer about this.
    I usually am listening to someone with one ear and thinking of either how I can help them or a story of my own that their’s makes me think of.
    I want to let their story be their own, and not offer advice unless it is asked for.
    Many times I also spend the time during their story trying to think of a good funny comeback. I have hurt feelings before because I didn’t think through what they might feel about my funny remark.

  18. 32

    oh, AMEN! Seeing the importance of having a heart like this and bending low in gratefulness, that’s how our own hearts are cultivated to look so similar. And you are rich evidence of this, sweet friend.

  19. 33

    I am a good listener. I love hearing other peoples’ stories and what God has taught them. I actually find it awkward sometimes talking about myself. I think that I do better when someone asks me questions. My life tends to be overwhelming when I verbalize it!!!! Haha!!!

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