This topic is adapted from the PursueGOD Network YouTube channel. This is part 3 of 4 in the Emotional Intelligence for Pastors series.

Some people seem to have innately greater emotional intelligence than others. But EQ can grow and develop as we intentionally develop two foundational skills. These skills are challenging but anyone can get better at them.


We can’t assume that we know what others are feeling. They only way we can know is by listening to them. Developing the skill of listening requires us to be willing to set aside our own agenda for what we want to express in order to hear others.

Listening goes beyond words alone. We can learn much about a person’s emotional state by observing non-verbal emotional cues, such as facial expression, tone of voice, and posture.

Be sure to listen in a way that people feel understood and valued. That means giving them complete attention and letting them know through your open non-verbal cues that you are listening.

Expressing Empathy

Empathy is the ability not only to hear, but to relate to the feelings of others. One important element of empathy is to consider the impact of our words and behavior on the emotions of others. Are you aware of how people react to what you say and do?

Empathy also involves learning to understand and seriously consider the other person’s viewpoint and objectives, especially when these are different from our own. Again, this is a skill that can be learned, but it starts with a willingness to do so.

As you become aware of and practice these two skills, your emotional intelligence will increase – to the benefit of yourself and others.

[Related: Some Do’s and Don’ts for Helping Those Who Are Grieving]

Discussion Questions:

  1. Watch the video together or invite someone to summarize the topic.
  2. What is your initial reaction to this video? Do you disagree with any of it? What jumped out at you?
  3. How do you know when someone is really listening to you? How do you know when they aren’t?
  4. What can you learn about someone’s emotional state from watching non-verbal cues? Give some examples.
  5. How can you listen to someone in a way that they feel understood and valued?
  6. Why is listening a valuable skill in pastoral ministry? Give some example.
  7. How would you define empathy?
  8. Give an example of a time when you were unaware of the impact of your words or actions on other people’s emotions. What happened?
  9. Why is empathy a valuable skill in pastoral ministry? Give some examples.
  10. Why is it hard to seriously consider someone else’s viewpoint and objectives when they differ from our own?
  11. What have you done to get better at either listening or empathy?
  12. Write a personal action step based on this conversation.

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