Listening is one of the most important aspects of good communication AND one of the more difficult things for parents to do. Let’s take a look at some strategies you might want to consider to become a better listener.
An obvious component in being a good listener is to be available. Most meaningful conversation occurs person-to-person. If you’re trying to connect simply by texting or on the phone, be assured you’re going to miss opportunities for true communication. This is because so much of communication is non-verbal. In texting you miss both the tone and the body language. In phone conversations you can hear the tone, but still miss the body language. So step one is to make the effort and opportunity to connect “eye to eye” with your kids. Try to be “on location” whenever possible.
If you want meaningful communication and not just talk, it can’t be forced. It is more likely to happen when you and your and child are casually spending time together. Working or playing together provide wonderful opportunities for just such a conversation.
Let your child initiate the tough conversations. Your responsibility is to respond, remembering the goal is to continue the conversation, not to begin a lecture. Saying nothing is many times most appropriate. Be a listener and simply encourage your child to continue by being engaged (not multi-tasking) and offering short encouragements to continue. When your child has come to the end of his or her sharing, you can repeat what you’ve heard and ask if you are understanding the situation correctly.
Then (and this is very important) ask the child what he or she is thinking about doing to remedy the situation.
If you know of resources that can help your teenager or tween with a solution, share that information. The neutral source will provide you with someone else’s thoughts to discuss with your child. Quoting Hayley DiMarco in B4UD8 “an informed person making choices for themselves is much more likely to follow through on those choices than a person who is told what to do.”
Start today to hone your listening skills. It will help you realize good communication is more than just talk.
What have you discovered that has enhanced communication with your son or daughter?