If I had to make a list of the top ten things we’re good at in the Western world, listening wouldn’t be one of them. I feel like many people (often, myself included) tend to be thinking about what they’re going to say next, instead of what you’re saying to them. And unfortunately, it’s easiest with family- the people we see every day- to listen without really hearing. If I’m trying to multitask, I’ll often find myself listening half-heartedly to my husband, even saying, “hmm” and nodding as he talks… only to realize I don’t know what he just said. I hope I’m not only one that does this!
Then a week or two ago I came across this quote on pinterest.
Wow. When I first read that it stung a little because I know I have been guilty of not listening earnestly. I always say that the most important thing to me is having a strong heart-to-heart connection with my kids; a connection that allows them to safely come to me with any thought, any experience, any problem; a connection that causes my children to run to me, not away from me, when they mess up.
But that doesn’t happen magically. The parents I know that have that kind of connection with their kids have been carefully developing it from the very beginning. I’m having a reality check that the parent I want to be when my kids are teenagers dealing with big issues has to be the parent I am right now… and I think it all begins with listening.
So I’m making some resolutions:
- I will give a high value to everything my child says and treat her thoughts as if they were vitally important- because they are to her.
- I will not condescend to my children, but listen and converse with them with respect, the same way I do with my peers.
- I will put down my phone, close my laptop, or turn off the TV to give my full attention when listening. I will not multi-task with technology when relationships are involved.
- I will make eye contact. This simple but often overlooked gesture goes a long way toward making the speaker feel listened to, even if I’m chopping vegetables and can only look up every few moments.
- I won’t try to fix and solve my children’s problems while they’re sharing with me… just acknowledge them and reflect them back. For example, “that must have made you feel angry…” or “it sounds like you felt really hurt by so-and-so.”
- I will not interrupt.
- I will ask meaningful and relevant questions that show that I’m listening and involved.
- I will make time for conversation; I will make it a priority to sit down one-on-one with my kids to just talk.
- I will share my own heart. I will model openness and authenticity for my children.
I came up with this list by first examining my own bad conversation habits and then considering what makes me feel listened to. What about you- what are some things you could do to listen better?