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JOB LOSS SURVIVAL GUIDE
Have you, a member of your family, or a friend been laid off? This can help you cope.
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(Also view it using MSWord and save or print if you like)

JOB SEARCH TOOLS
A collection of links to help you in your job search.
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Conflict Resolution Skills Help Families Grow Stronger

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Learn to Really Listen to Each Other

by Jim Davis

One of the classes I took for my counseling master's degree was on stages of family development. During the course, the professor split the class into groups to work as teams to present one class. One of the groups had a very interesting exercise in which they got teens and their parents to come and talk to the class about their relationships with one another. What was so eye-opening to me was the lack of agreement between what the parents said about their kids and their relationships compared to what the kids said. In most cases the parents seemed to think that they understood their kids and treated them the way they wanted -- had a great relationship, etc., while the kids basically showed that their parents "didn't have a clue."

What made this particularly impressive to me was that the basic relationship between my kids and my wife and me had been pretty good as they grew up. My older son went off to college and came home concerned because so many of his peers had such poor relationships with their parents. He said that it seemed that he was the only one he knew who didn't hate his parents.

Here are a few things that can help you to learn to listen effectively:

Learn to listen by watching.

Yogi Berra is famous for his sayings that don't seem to make sense. One of them was, "You can observe a lot by watching." In this case, though, I think Yogi knew what he was talking about. For one thing, watching involves a lot more than just looking at something. It requires thinking about what you are seeing. And, observation involves all the senses working in concert with one another. It involves reflection on what has apparently happened vs. what actually happened, and it involves clarification of discrepancies.

Encourage disagreement.

This doesn't mean that you try to promote discord. Just encourage them to think for themselves and welcome their ideas. But also insist on being heard. Use your disagreements to learn more about each other. Use them to learn conflict resolution, negotiation, compromise. And, remember that you do have the last word in the case of a disagreement that you cannot resolve.

Realize that listening is a thinking process.

Just think of a time when someone was telling you a story, describing something they wanted you to do, or even asking you a question. The odds are that if you were really listening you went through several assumptions of what they were going to say before they finished. That's because we can think so much faster than a person can talk. Of course one additional problem we often have is that we quit really listening before they finish. Then we make an assumption that we hold onto while ignoring the rest of what they say. That is why it is so important to reflect back to them our understanding of what we think they said. That way, they can clarify any misunderstanding.

Listening involves a commitment of your time.

If your kid comes up to you while you are doing something you consider important and asks a question, you may answer what you thought was the question. Or you may even just brush them off saying how busy you are. I have a cousin who learned to use the preoccupation his dad had with his hobby to get approval for projects that otherwise would never have gotten it. Like the time he asked if he could use the lawnmower engine to power a "go-cart" he had built. By the time his dad realized that he had given permission to do that, my cousin had already had quite a bit of fun driving around. Of course, he did have to put the engine back on the lawnmower.

Listening is at least a two-way process.

It actually is more than two-way when there are more than two people involved. For example, when one of my sons would say something to the rest of the family, each of the others sometimes heard something different. The variation was not always important, or at least had little effect. At other times, however, the differences brought about disagreement and hard feelings. And when everyone was sure they were right, it made things even worse. Especially when the one who had the final say using his "right" way was actually wrong.

If you want your kids to listen to you, the best way is to teach them by listening to them. Whether you are trying to develop respect, love, or just trying to get a problem solved, showing that you are genuinely interested in the value of what others are saying, thinking, and feeling is the best way to get others to respond the way you want them to.

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