Hands up if you’ve been in a conversation and the other person just keeps talking over the top of you?
Hands up if you’re just sharing something that happened to you and the other person keeps trying to come up with solutions? Or their own story?
Yeah. Annoying, huh.
The art of true listening is a rare and beautiful thing. It means stopping our own thoughts and focussing our body-language on the other person. It means responding to the emotional intent of the words. It doesn’t mean butting in with our own story, which is nearly the same but happened to Aunt Dora’s, cousin’s, neighbour’s cat a few months ago now, or was it last year…And it doesn’t, often, mean finding a solution for the other person. That’s their job. If they want advice they’ll ask for it. Damn it.
I’m very solution orientated (if you haven’t already noticed), practical and I have some awesome stories to share. I know quite a bit of stuff and I’m naturally analytical (closet statistician). I like to help people: if people tell me their problems I usually assume they’re asking for a solution. Sigh.
I’ve got this sorted with the boys now. Most of the time, I stop what I’m doing and listen to they are telling me. I turn my body to face them and unless I’m doing something urgent and/or dangerous like cooking right-at-that-second, I focus completely on the speaker. I acknowledge their emotions first and then deal with the situation. Often it takes no more than a listening ear and/or a Boring Cuddle (Quick Way to Stop Children Fussing)and they’re off again. This approach has reduced all tale-telling to zero. Truly. They only come to me when they have a problem they cannot manage themselves. I never once have had to tell them to go away and work it out alone. (I think this leads to dominant/submissive roles anyway. You can read about it here: Children Bullying and Telling Tales: The Link. )
Parents: listening is one of the key ways we can help our children feel connected to us. It’s a bonding activity. It’s a key way our children learn that we are really as there for them as we say we are.
It’s the same with adults. To really feel that we are connected to someone, we need to feel they have heard us.
Not that they say we’re heard (intellect), but that we understand that we’re heard (emotion).
I’m really concentrating on doing this when I write comments on other people’s blogs too. (I still don’t get it right sometimes, but I’m working on it.) By focussing on what the spirit of the post is about – it’s more pleasant for the writer, I’m sure, but also I hope it’ll help me to listen, truly listen, to what other people are saying to me in the real world. So, I’m sorta going through this in my head:
Stop. Focus. Switch off Busy-Brain. Listen. Respond-emotion. Respond-solution, if they want it. Keep my own similar stories to myself (unless I’ve a really funny one just bursting out of me).
If people feel listened to, they feel connected; if they feel connected, they don’t feel lonely; if they don’t feel lonely they are more likely to feel they can manage whatever life throws at them; if they feel they can manage whatever life throws at them, they are self-assured.
One of the key goals of Optimal Parenting is to raise self-assured children. Parents if you properly listen to your children. It’ll make your life so much easier – and theirs.
(This is officially how I help put food on the table. If you’ve found this article useful, please feel free to use the Koha button just above my blogroll. Even the smallest amount is appreciated. 🙂 )