Book Review: How to Listen So People Will Talk

“God gave us two ears and one mouth, so we ought to listen twice as much as we speak.” While we find this well-known saying humorous, the reality behind it is honest. On more than one occasion, we find our mouths are open and our ears effectively shut. Even when we do listen, we often do so with the intent of responding. The issue is such actions kill conversations, if not friendships and marriages. What should be clear: this is no small matter. With the problem identified, how do we go about searching for and finding a solution? Becky Harling, a certified John Maxwell speaker, coach, and trainer, seeks to lead us down the trail to the answer in her new book How to Listen So People Will Talk: Build Stronger Communication and Deeper Connections.

In ten chapters, Mrs. Harling prods the reader to become a better listener by studying “biblically based, practical listening skills” (Harling 20). Throughout the book she emphasizes the importance of asking questions, learning to intentionally listen, and addressing the necessary heart matters. At the end of each chapter are practical exercises to strengthen your listening skills, with sections covering listening to God, listening to your heart, and listening to others.

This book is an immensely practical help for anyone who desires to grow in their listening skills. Harling does not write in the abstract. Her personal stories throughout the chapters and specific calls to application will challenge the reader to put into practice what they’re learning.

Yet, for Harling to hit the mark on the ‘what’ of listening, she does not fully draw out the ‘why’. She calls the reader to an others-oriented view of conversation but falls short in pointing them to a robust Christ-centered motivation. To be sure, she uses terms like in Christ, Christian, and Christ-likeness in her descriptions to the reader. The hole in her discussion, though, is the principles laid out assume the gospel. Each chapter contains good principles, but these good principles are given without rooting them in the gospel. Yes, we need to become like Jesus by learning to grow in our listening, as Harling states. However, before we can see Jesus as our example, we must trust in Him as Lord and Savior. We do not begin with what we do in imitating Jesus; we must start with knowing what Jesus did to save us. The author herself makes a great point when she says, “it’s impossible to be a good listener without developing a humble spirit” (Harling 29). When does this development start? When we receive a new heart by repenting of sin and trusting in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. To summarize, How to Listen So People Will Talk provides practical depth but lacks gospel depth. This book will help you learn to be better a listener even while it may miss the mark on telling you at the most foundational level why you should be.

I received this book for free from Bethany House for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and are my honest review of the book.

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