Finding ways to be emotionally vulnerable with one another is a key element to ministering as Jesus Christ would. Throughout history and through our own lives, Christ intimately understands our needs, our desires, our fears, and even those things we are unable to express.
While we definitely cannot do all that Christ does, nor are we meant to, we can emulate his example and become a powerful tool in his hands. Part of this journey is learning how to help people open up to you and honoring those who do. If you want to become a safe place for others, read through these five essentials.
Do you ask someone how they are in a large group of people? This is a terrible idea for getting a truthful answer. People can feel a lot of shame when sharing, so they are less likely to tell you how they really are when others are around.
Plus, a large group setting does not lend itself to intimate conversations. Seek opportunities to talk to someone alone. Pull them aside. Invite them to go on a walk. Take them out for lunch. Look for little, unexpected moments to approach someone. If you keep your eyes open, the Holy Ghost will help you find and make use of these opportunities.
If you try to talk to someone as you walk by them, as they head somewhere, or while doing an attention-needing activity, you will likely not be able to connect. Not only is your time to talk limited, but the person will be able to sense you are not in a good place to actively listen to them.
Be still. Find a space and time when you both can focus solely on the conversation without hustling and bustling about.
People do not readily share. Asking once will not be enough. Keep asking questions for understanding. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland once said:
“More important than speaking is listening…Be genuine. Reach out sincerely. Ask these friends what matters most to them. What do they cherish, and what do they hold dear? And then listen. If the setting is right, you might ask what their fears are, what they yearn for, or what they feel is missing in their lives. I promise you that something in what they say will always highlight a truth of the gospel about which you can bear testimony and about which you can then offer more. … If we listen with love, we won’t need to wonder what to say. It will be given to us—by the Spirit and by our friends.”
After someone shares a bit of their heart, follow up with them at a later time. This will show the person you were truly listening and that you cared about what they said. The next time you see them, ask how things are going and if there have been any changes. If you would like, you can even send a text or social media message to check in.
Following up also lets the person know what they told you did not scare you away. You still love them. You are going to stay by their side. This is such an important aspect of healing and helping.
As you talk with someone in need, God can inspire you on how to help them. Follow these promptings and act on service opportunities that come to your mind. Do not be afraid! Love boldly and live in such a manner that the Spirit can frequently show you how best to minister to those around you.