How to be a better Listener

We’ve been working on listening with our son.  He likes to talk.  A lot.  His mouth is running constantly.  We have to physically make him be still and make eye contact before we give instruction.  I can say something seven times and know he didn’t hear me.  Then, when I finally raise my voice, he gets offended that I did so.  Geesh!  

While working with him, I’ve made a few observations about listening.  I’m sure there is nothing new here, except possibly a reminder you I need.

1.  Stop what you are doing (checking your phone, cooking, cleaning, writing, staring into space)

2.  Look the person talking in the eyesthis is important.  I have trouble making eye contact.  I don’t know why, so I’m making more of an effort.  If I’m going to require it of my 6 year old, I better practice it myself.  You know, the goose/gander thing.

3.  Don’t begin formulating a response before they’ve finished speakingthis is hard but if you don’t hear them out, even if they take an incredibly long time to say something, you deprive them of the opportunity to express themselves.

4.  Repeat back to them what you heard them sayWe all know this, but how many of us practice it? For some reason, what comes out of one person’s mouth goes through some sort of invisible filter and I hear it completely differently.  Remember the old telephone game?  How many times did we play that as kids and we still don’t get the point of that object lesson.

5.  Respect their opinion, if they gave one We have lost civility in our society.  I see it all the time at the shops, online, in emails and texts.  We want free speech, as long as it’s our speech that’s free.

6.  Breathe and think! – for as long as it takes.

7.  Respond in an appropriate way.  Here’s the kicker.  We can’t know the appropriate way to respond unless we listen.  We don’t always have to have answers or responses.  Sometimes the listening is most important of all.

8.  Silence is okayWe are afraid of silence today.  Practicing silence helps us listen.  It’s actually a mutually beneficial relationship.  Silence allows listening, listening allows contemplation and contemplation requires silence.

Not only do I hope to train our son to be a better listener, I hope to train myself.  I talk too much.  I share opinions too easily.  I’m learning to be more quiet.  Not “silent treatment” quiet, but contemplative quiet.  Mind you, I have not even come close to mastery of this skill, but baby steps…

How about you?  What helps you listen most effectively?

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