Here's a couple of words that don't seem to go together - “persuasive listening.” How might a genuine servant leader exert influence and leadership through being a good listener?
What would make a “persuasive listener”? Well, obviously it’s someone who has already listened well to God’s leading and is listening from within God’s presence. Listening from within God’s presence would attune me to the Spirit’s leading and discerning. This posture would give me strength to shed defensiveness and criticism.
Then of course persuasive listening assumes that I’ve listened well to my own heart. I know myself. I’ve prayed Psalm 139 and I’m prayerfully aware of my own feelings, habits, and patterns of reaction. I am not preoccupied with my own inner conversation when I’m attending to someone who is talking to me.
Persuasive listening makes me wonder whether I’m clear about what my listening intends to persuade you of! I want my listening to happen in such a way that you are persuaded that I am fully present to you, that I respect you, and that I am a safe person. I want to persuade you that I am available as a supporter, clarifier, appreciator of your ideas. Not that I agree with everything, but that I understand and I care.
Assuming that we are talking here about diaconal persuasive listening, I’m listening for resources, for opportunities, for strengths, as well as for the pain and the questions. I’m always listening for where the Spirit nudges me and says, "Did you hear that?" Explore that. Affirm that. Pray for that. Encourage that.
Of course, I’m listening for where we might disagree so that I can explore the disagreement, understand it, and perhaps find common ground or even a resolution. I’m listening to hear where your concerns are similar to others’ concerns, and I’m REALLY listening for possible ways forward, or solutions, or opportunities to collaborate. When will I chime in? When will I be quiet? When will I ask a question, and what is the right question that will move us in a Spirit-led direction? Shall I make a comment? Maybe. My diaconal role at least for starters is to persuade the speaker that I care, that I understand , that I will support, and that I will pray…. And perhaps I will act, but not necessarily, not yet. AND, knowing well my own weakness, I will pray that I won’t miss the opportunity to act when the Spirit says act.