Parents: True Listening *is* Connecting Part One

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. 🙂 )

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About Karyn @ kloppenmum

kloppenmum is me, Karyn Van Der Zwet, mother of three and ex-teacher. I'm part of a revolution in parenting, with the aim to raise mature (not sophisticated) and self-assured children. I also know some stuff about adults. I have also had articles printed in The Journal for The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (Children and Young People) and the US parenting magazine, Pathways to Family Wellness, as well I regularly write for World Moms Blog (named as one of the Forbes 100 most useful blogs for women 2012 &2013). You can follow me on facebook (kloppenmum) pinterest (Karyn at Kloppenmum) and twitter (@kloppenmum). I'm also vaguely on LinkedIn (Karyn Van Der Zwet). Thanks to Joe (Mr Hare) for taking the photo. Cheers, son: xxxx.
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12 Responses to Parents: True Listening *is* Connecting Part One

  1. Fiona says:

    Totally agree with every word you have written here today – good communication is a subject very dear to my heart. People who talk over me or don’t listen to what I am saying when I show them that courtesy are usual on my ‘people to avoid list’.

    Good communication skills is one of the most important skills I feel I can teach my children. Think of some of the greatest people in history – many of them were described as charismatic (i.e – they had the ability to make people feel good about themselves and that comes from good communication skills)

    Great post 🙂

    • Thanks Fiona. It really struck home to me, this talking over the top of others and not every *really* hearing, when I had a conversation with someone the other day. That is, the other person talked and I ended up just zoning out. Any attempts I made at sharing my ideas were immediately shut-down. It was not listening at the extreme – and *very* disconnecting. Not charismatic or appealing, at all!

  2. My husband was telling me about a comic whose material is currently on his “A” list. He related a bit about the dad (the comic) listening to his 3-year-old, who said that he could just stop listening entirely and not miss anything. “Really, you saw a brown dog?” I can relate, as I’m sure any truthful parent can, to this feeling. But at the same time, it made me so sad for this little child who was simply telling about life as she saw it—just like we all do. It’s no more or less important because of the content. I think we all need the reminder to be present while listening, in order to truly hear the child.

    • It’s so hard when little ones are wanting to tell us about the latest worm or bit of old gum they’ve found (constantly) and we’ve got a million things to do and organise. Being present for children is such a gift to their sense of self, and the relationship we have with them. I agree, any reminder to be truly present with others, particularly children, is valuable.

  3. Laura Weldon says:

    The hunger to be heard is one of the great starvations of our time. And what each of us can gain from listening to each other (and to our bodies) is so underrated. I wrote about the Scale of Attuned Responses recently, which helps us gauge how well we’re listening and being heard.
    http://lauragraceweldon.com/2011/03/30/how-to-listen-how-to-be-heard/

    • It certainly is one of the starvations of our time. Too much busy-ness all round, and not a lot of rhythm to the day/week/year, I think. I must check out that post again. I’m sure I must have read it. 🙂

  4. Judy says:

    Karyn,
    You certainly “practice what you preach.” You have left comments on my blog that had me feel totally connected to you. Now I understand why by reading you magnificent post. It has been amazing for me to find someone across the world just from writing and sharing who understands me. You are an excellent listener, for sure, and your children are so lucky to have you as their mom (and your husband, too!)
    Judy

    • I do work hard at this aspect of my character, Judy, but like everyone, I don’t always get it right. I am certainly more aware of how my listening affects others and I think that’s the beginning of getting it right. Thanks for letting me know that my comments are connective; it’s very important to me that people know I have read their thoughts and understood what they say. Why would we blog, otherwise?!

  5. Marcy says:

    I definitely need more practice. I’m a little better at listening in text than in person, but even then I jump far too quickly and often.

    • It’s a learned skill, Marcy, and something I think many of us could do with a little more practise in. Like everything, awareness and a few good strategies – are a great starting point. 🙂

  6. faemom says:

    You always make me think. I try to be very considerate and actually “listen” when people speak to me. Unless it’s my boys. Then half the time I’m only listening with one ear. I’ve got to work on this. Thanks for writing this post.
    P.S. Feel free to share whatever stories my posts bring to your mind because I bet they’re fascinating.

    • Thanks for commenting. And for the offer of linking to your blog. I love your posts – probably because they are so close to home. I think it’s the three sons thing, and unbelievable cuteness of course. Had to stop Reading the bedtime story tonight (more than once) due to one or other of the older boys breaking the penis rules. Where else can I share such experiences except at ‘your place’. 🙂

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