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Are you really listening?

It can really hurt when someone listens half-heartedly to us, when we really want, and need, their full attention.

We can feel unimportant, unworthy or insignificant, particularly if we are lacking in confidence and self-assurance.

Here are some listening negatives:-

Cutting off the speaker and talking about ourselves

Eg. Your child is telling you that she is scared to go for a ride on a horse, and you immediately say that you were easily trotting on horses, at an earlier age than she is.

Thinking about our own related experiences and what we want to say

You are reminded of something that happened to you and you concentrate on that, at the expense of careful listening to the other person. You may even be thinking about how you want to express yourself, in order to impress the other person, or worried about how your words will come out.

Interrupting when someone hasn’t fully finished

You may be dying to talk about something that is relevant, and you don’t wait until the speaker has finished what they want to say.

Changing the subject

When someone needs your empathic attention, you talk about something entirely different. eg. Your husband is telling you that he is worried about paying the bills this month. You start talking straight away about your problem with your friend. It might make you feel better. You might not know what to say or do, in this situation, to comfort your spouse.

Advising the speaker to make light of their situation

Youtrivialise the other persons message and cut off the expression of emotions.

eg. Cheer up. Keep your chin up. Mary is much worse off than you are. Be a big brave girl/boy.

Not looking at the speaker

Someone is talking to you and you are too pre-occupied to turn towards him or her, or you aren’t sufficiently interested in what they have to say. Perhaps you don’t regard the person highly enough to use eye contact. Maybe you are very shy.

Not demonstrating our acknowledgement of the other person’s meaning and feelings

You show little, if any, body language and/or give no, or minimal, verbal feedback.

You don’t think from a child’s point of view, or understand the child’s developmental stage eg. Your 4 year old son is afraid to be left at a birthday party, and you tell him that he’ll be fine, or that he is being ridiculous.

Giving advice that has not been requested

You believe that you can best help the speaker by giving advice. Eg. Your friend tells you that she is exhausted because her child isn’t sleeping well at night, and you tell her what she should do to fix the problem.

Effective Listening

By listening effectively to others, we will role-model positive behaviour, and notice that others will more likely open up to us, and want to maintain a relationship with us.

When people are sensitively listened to, they are likely to feel respected, valued and well-regarded.

Valuable listening involves giving our complete attention and focus to another person. We need to stop what we are doing and, either turn towards the speaker or, better still, walk closer to her or him. Young children, especially, need us to actively walk right over to them. With older children and adults, it is often necessary to tell the speaker that we will listen in a few minutes, or more. We may need to negotiate a time. It is preferable to move close to her or him, if the person is showing that she or he is particularly troubled by something.

Asking questions is also a great way of showing our interest, and further understanding the issue being presented. It is vital that we don’t overdo the questions. Prying or being overly protective is disrespectful and disempowering to others. Our children are individuals who have the right to keep some information to themselves if, by doing so, they are not hurting themselves, or anyone else or taking dangerous risks. By allowing this, we are showing that we trust them.

Our relationship with another person will be greatly improved, if we can reflect back the feelings and message that is conveyed to us, through verbal expression and body language. We are showing that we care about the other person, and giving them the opportunity to clarify their thoughts and feelings. We are also giving them the time and opportunity to solve their problems and brainstorm possible solutions. This is very empowering for them.

Connecting deeply with family members and friends is crucial. If we are too busy to spend time closely listening to our loved ones, it is necessary that we cut down on our workload. Our relationships need to be given priority over jobs etc.