Have you watched people having an animated conversation? Every excited observation becomes a catalyst toward further excited observations. Every event related with gusto leads to reciting similar events. Observations, remarks, assertions, and comments outdo each other and are plowed under by further talking.
Such conversations play an important role in the communities of which we are part. They not only keep us informed but they also confirm us as people. What we say and what we hear affirms us as belonging to a community. That's why we continue visiting. No matter how busy we are, we need to talk.
But there is one type of visiting that requires more listening than talking. Sometimes individual people struggle with worries, fears, or pressing needs. They have come into your orbit to be heard, to share their burdens. They will probably express themselves hesitantly, awkwardly even. We as members of a Christian community have to pick up on that. The little details they entrust to us must not be matched with our counter-details. Rather we must hear, let the remarks sink in, ponder on them, recognize them, begin to feel their impact, and then ask our follow-up questions. We must, in general. do more listening than asserting at such human encounters. Only then can we speak affirmative words of understanding and encouragement.
This holds especially true for one-on-one visits . People who feel burdened may well recognize such visits as an opportunity to share from the heart. You, the listener, have a God-given responsibility to hear and observe needs. Remember, those seeking you out do not solicit your help so much as just to find a companion who understands and shares.
Much of an elder's task is that kind of listening. Elders will be slow in telling about themselves. They are listeners. They learn about the needs of those entrusted to their care. Growing in understanding, they grow in prayer-effectiveness.