For the next series of blog posts, I wanted to learn more about the communication skills necessary to be a successful missionary. Who better to ask than some current LDS missionaries? As I’ve talked to my missionary friends–in the MTC, in the field, or recently returned–I’ve been taking notes. Not surprisingly, the missionaries all agreed that good communication is crucial to successfully sharing the gospel with others and bringing them closer to God. However, the elements they emphasized as being key in good communication varied from missionary to missionary. Those qualities which tended to resurface over and over are those which I’ll be sharing. And today’s is good listening.
Before a sister, or any missionary, can expect to share a powerful message of the gospel with others, she must first master the skill of good listening. Good listening allows the missionary to demonstrate her care and concern for the investigator, evaluate the needs of those she teaches, and enlist the help of the Holy Ghost in teaching others.
There’s an old quote by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt which, though not initially coined for missionary work, is nicely applicable here:
No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Sometimes, we become so wrapped up in our desire to tell others about Jesus Christ and his gospel that we forget to take a step back and listen. While the desire to teach and serve is one stemming from a love of God and those around us, if we are so focused on getting our own message out that care, compassion, and charity that we have for others will be lost. Stopping to listen to those we come in contact with and teach shows our respect and concern for each individual, their circumstances, and their ideals.
As we listen carefully, not only will our care for those we meet become evident, but we will be able to gain a greater understanding of the needs of those individuals we are called to teach. One missionary, who was actually a communications major before pausing his formal education to serve his mission, said that, when it comes to communicating effectively with others “the listening is more important than the actual speaking.” True, attentive listening to those that he teaches allows him to learn more about the person he is working with. In understanding more about the person, he is able to better judge what he should be communicating with the person, making adjustments when necessary. To clarify: this does not mean that a missionary change the principles taught to fit the tastes of the listener, but that they take what they have learned to prayerfully determine what lessons they think the investigator will benefit most from hearing.
Finally, perhaps the most important blessing that comes from good listening is the ability to hear and recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. 2 Nephi 32:3 reads
Angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore, they speak the words of Christ. Wherefore, I said unto you, feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.
As sisters, we are given “the errand of angels” (“As Sisters in Zion,” LDS Hymnbook). We speak and preach of Jesus Christ, and must do so by the power and direction of the Holy Ghost, for the Holy Ghost “will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5). Without the ability to recognize and listen to the promptings of the spirit, we cannot be effective missionaries in bringing others unto Christ.
May we learn the importance of and work toward becoming better listeners as we prepare to serve the Lord as sister missionaries in His gospel and bring His children back to Christ.