Listening is a skill, and ultimately an art. Have you ever trampled on someone’s sentences, then thought, “I should try to be a better listener”?
We are told to ‘listen’ our whole childhood but we aren’t taught in school how to ‘listen’!
It is very common in society for people to interrupt, give advice, tell someone they are wrong or turn the conversation around to what they want to talk about. We have all experienced that feeling of not being ‘heard’ by the person we are talking to.
So what makes a good listener?
Well, there is a difference between ‘Hearing’ and ‘Listening’. Hearing is something we do unconsciously and without a choice. Listening on the other hand, is a conscious choice where we decide that we are going to put our attention to the other person and quieten our own thoughts.
In Coaching, we call it ‘Listening to Understand’. Understanding enables you to better relate to your children and put yourself in their shoes. Understanding is also seeing things from your child’s point of view and trying to see what they might need from you.
How many times has your child or teenager said to you ‘You just don’t understand’! The desire to be understood by our family, friends, co-workers – even the customer service person on the end of the telephone – it is fundamental to all of us. Teens crave compassionate understanding. Who wants to hear that old “When I was your age….” speech!
Understanding is achieved through learning to listen with all your senses, without judgement or advice. It doesn’t come from ‘being right’, having all the answers or believing that your children should think like you do.
Here are some of the common traps or blocks to listening –
- Listening with the intent to reply – thinking of how you are going to reply when the other person is talking
- Interrupting before the person has even finished their sentence
- Own Story Listening – comparing similar experiences in your mind whilst the person is talking
- Judging what the person is saying based on your own beliefs and experiences
- Being elsewhere – thinking of your ‘To Do’ list or what to cook for dinner whilst the other person is talking