Five Listening Practices for Transformation

Listening is essential to community transformation. Here are five ways to listen in thoughtful, curious, and empowering ways

Photo by Christian Lue

Listening is essential to our work. We need to listen well to our context in order to partner with our neighbors towards transforming our community. Here are five listening practices you can adopt with your neighbors as you seek transformation.


1. Linger in the conversation and see what develops

Being present to others means giving space to think and to share. When we pause to give space to others, more thoughts, questions, and ideas float to the surface and are shared. Perhaps they were wondering if they could share that one half-thought they had. Maybe they’re not used to being asked what they think. Lingering yields the “you know what else?...” ideas.

2. Ask open-ended questions

Consider how different “What are the gifts of this community” sounds from “Do you like living here?” The former invites imagination and the latter requires a yes or no response. Open-ended questions inspire insight.

3. Share your curiosity about their life and the community

Your neighbors have unique perspectives on the community and have stories to tell! What might you learn by asking your neighbor a question like, “I’ve always wondered, what’s your earliest memory of the neighborhood?” What’s the best restaurant? What’s made the community successful? How have friendships formed?

4. Embrace awkward pauses

It’s only awkward if you make it awkward. Pauses allow for gathering thoughts, thinking of questions, and reflecting on what has been said. Get comfortable with silence. No one’s ever died from an awkward moment.

5. Ask who else might want to share

All our neighbors are a part of relational networks. What new friendships might be formed by asking, “Who else is passionate about what you’re passionate about?” Bringing others into a transforming community empowers neighbors and makes outsiders, insiders.


Servant Partners’ Community Transformation Certificate helps people listen to God, neighbor, and themselves as the central posture for community transformation. You can learn more and sign up for the CTC at www.servantpartners.org/certificate.

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