Category | Mentoring Youth

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  1. Give your undivided attention. Show with your body language that you want to listen to that one person. Maintain appropriate eye contact. Occasionally during the conversation call the youth by name.
  2. Concentrate on what the youth is saying. Because you can listen faster than the other person can speak, you will be tempted to think about something else or to interrupt.
  3. Stop talking. You cannot listen if you are talking. James said, “be quick to listen, slow to speak” (1:19, NIV).
  4. Be honest. Speak the truth in gentleness and love. Sometimes you will be in a situation in which a youth wants to talk to you, but you do not have enough time. Be honest and arrange another time to get together.
  5. Acknowledge feelings. Sometimes a youth will specifically state his or her feelings such as “I’m so mad!” or “This is exciting!” or “I’ve been so discouraged.” If so, repeat back or paraphrase the feeling words used in order to communicate that you heard the feeling. Often, a feeling is not put into words but is communicated through vocal communication (such as loudness, pitch, speed, or emphasis) or body language (such as facial expressions, gestures, moving toward or away from you, or touching). Let the youth know you have observed the feeling but let the youth correct you if you are wrong. You might say, “I get the impression that you are hurt. Am I right?” Allowing emotion is not easy. Sometimes feelings are expressed in ways that make us feel uncomfortable. But when you attempt to squelch a person’s feelings, you are meeting your need for comfort, not the other person’s need.
  6. Avoid advice and problem solving. A youth may say, “I’m not sure what I ought to do” or “I need your help” or “I have a problem.” Your immediate thought is that the youth is asking for advice or a solution to the problem. However, that is not what was said. More likely, he or she simply needs to talk to someone about the situation.
  7. Be patient. Allow plenty of time. Do not expect all issues to be settled immediately. Don’t lose faith in God’s ability to help the youth solve his or her own problems if they can or need to be solved. Do not make decisions for the youth to speed up the process. Trust God to work in the youth’s life in ways you cannot.
  8. Allow silence. It gives the youth time to reflect on what has already been said. Sometimes he or she is using the period of silence to decide whether to share with you at a deeper level.
  9. Invite the youth to talk more. Ask open-ended rather than yes-no and specific information questions. Such questions lead to a dead end or only satisfy your curiosity. Questions based on what has already been expressed allow you to follow the direction the youth wants to take.
  10. Tell about yourself. Hearing the youth’s story often reminds you of an incident or event in your own life. Resist the temptation to tell your story if the result will be shifting the attention to yourself. When you feel it is appropriate to tell your story, make it brief. The purpose of sharing your experience should be to give the youth permission to continue his or her story.

When you listen better, youth will talk more and share with you on a deeper level. Practice improving your ability to listen.

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