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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
to home page