Two smiling beautiful young women talking at the table in cafe

How to Listen: Emotionally or Logically?

Written by: Emma Baldwin and Austin Braddock

Have you ever listened to a friend tell you about issues that they are dealing with and found yourself unable to help them or give them advice? Experiences have taught us that people typically respond in one of two ways: either they provide emotional support or attempt to give logical advice. When listening to problems, women tend to give emotional support (sometimes failing to give practical advice), while men tend to try and “solve the problem,” instead of listening to how the other person feels. In this article, Austin Braddock and Emma Baldwin will talk about these two different responses that people generally give when listening to others. Emma will be talking about emotional support and what that looks like in her life. Austin will be discussing what it means to give logical advice and encourage those who tend to be logical listeners.

What are some benefits of having emotionally relational discussions versus having logically driven discussions?

Emma: In responding emotionally to others, the focus seems to be more on empathizing and/or sympathizing with those people. This can be helpful, especially when the other person is in a lot of pain. Another good thing that can come with this type of relationship is getting to rejoice with others when they rejoice. In emotionally-driven relationships, the tendency is toward support, sympathy, and encouragement.

Austin: In responding logically to others while they share their trials in life, there are a couple of things that happen. First, they will receive good logical advice, rather than being left in the dark with phrases like “Aww, I’m sorry that happened to you,” when sometimes they dug themselves into that very situation. Second, telling the truth consistently to an individual gives

them a sense of security knowing that you the listener will guide them to a down-to-earth, authentic answer. Speaking truth sets men free according to John 8:32: “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” Truth gives people security. They can know beyond a shadow of a doubt what is actually happening, and they can rest assured that their friends aren’t accidently leading them astray by sugar-coating the situation.

What are some downsides to the way you relate to people? What is an example of this?

Emma: Unfortunately, giving practical advice and finding ways to genuinely help the people you are relating to is not often a part of emotionally-driven relationships. I often find that when I am trying to comfort someone or simply trying to relate to or encourage them, I do not have much to say to them to actually help them. I am rarely in the mindset of coming up with logical solutions for the people I’m talking to. Sadly, I run into this problem basically every night. When my roommate gets back at the end of every day, we usually debrief, talking about the things that have happened—the good and bad parts—as well as what we learned. My roommate usually talks to me about different struggles she is going through, and while I am happy to listen, pray for her, and attempt to give her advice, I am never much help at finding practical ways to help her.

Austin: Confession time: Yes, it is possible to be too logical at times. Paul talks about being all things to all people. The downside in this society is that we aren’t authentic enough to tell people the truth. For me personally, I get in the mode of being too authentic and giving people advice, and it scares people away because either I’m being too real or they are unwilling to hear the truth that sets them free. Sometimes I don’t do a great job of hearing their feelings. When I listen to people, I really try to listen to hear what they are actually saying instead of

hearing the emotional side of things. Whenever I listen to the emotional side of things, I get sucked into hearing the emotions involved and end-up just saying “I’m sorry” and “Hope things get better,” and end up saying nothing after that. At the end of the day, I believe it’s best if we do this: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

What is a Bible verse that applies to your own unique style of listening?

Emma: A Bible verse that seems to address the idea of being emotionally relational is Romans 12:15, which says, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” This seems to be the focus of emotionally-driven people. They—we—often attempt to encourage or sympathize with the people to whom they are talking rather than responding practically or looking for ways to solve a problem. They often adapt to the emotions of others in their reactions, hoping to make their friends feel heard by relating to them emotionally.

Austin: Being authentic and logical is a unique challenge. However, the key, like Paul says, is “speaking the truth in love,” and then “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ” (Ephesians 4:15). If we are loving and relational with others as the verse from 1 Corinthians says, being all things to all people, then we shouldn’t have to worry about being too authentic or logical, because our love for others will support them both emotionally and truthfully.

In conclusion, we agree that there is not one “right” way of communicating to people; however, we have come to the conclusion that unity amongst the brothers and sisters in Christ is the best form of communication. Therefore, it is good to strike a balance of the two types of listening: sympathizing with the emotions of others, while at the same time providing them with

practical advice in response to what they are going through. Paul writes, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). Let our verbal communication towards each other be relational and of good report.