Five Strategies for Listening Well

Listening is a challenging aspect of communication, particularly when parenting a struggling teen. When you listen well, you show your teen that their opinions, thoughts, feelings and perspective are valuable. You demonstrate that your child is worth your time — and you encourage and empower your teen too. Here are five strategies that you can put into action today to improve your own listening skills — and, at the same time, model for your teen what it looks like to listen well:

Be present.

With our smartphones always within reach, it is very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check app updates as soon as you hear that telltale notification. Unfortunately, media can easily pull us out of the moment, both distracting us from the conversation and making us seem uninterested in the person we are with. Strive to set your phone aside until after the conversation is over, and ask your teen to do the same. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.

Expect disagreements.

Adolescence is the time when teens naturally establish their own opinions and preferences, and building this independence can be healthy! Walk into conversations knowing that you and your teen may not share the same perspective. This helps our minds remain open, and helps us stay focused on listening rather than reacting. We will be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Do not be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.

5 strategies for listening well Five Strategies for Listening Well

Be intentionally inquisitive.

Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. When you do, you show your teen that you are paying attention, you are interested in what he or she is saying and you are committed to learning more. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, your teen will leave knowing you care.

Keep an open mind.

Soak in what you are hearing. Just as you expect your teen to learn from you, you can also learn more about your teen through this conversation. Jumping in with our own response is tempting, particularly when the topic is volatile or challenging; but, if all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they are saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.

Listen between the lines.

When you listen well, you can get to know your teen’s heart. As you hear their words, try and step into their shoes and imagine how they’re feeling in the moment. Once you think you have a handle to on what emotions are being represented, ask questions to make sure you understand correctly. This is a pivotal step in showing empathy for your teen.

Listening well is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding — both for you and for your teen.

Time to Listen

Five Key Ways to Listening Well

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” –Stephen R. Covey

iStock 000003075992Medium 192x300 Time to ListenCommunication is something we engage in every day, and so many things hinge on it. Communication greatly influences our friendships, family relationships, dating and marriages, jobs, hobbies, etc. It’s how we communicate needs and emotions. Realizing that it plays such a huge role in life, it’s important that we strive to do it well. The following list points out a few brief suggestions on how to improve the way we communicate while in the role of the listener.

  1. Be present– It’s very tempting to rush to respond to text messages or check ESPN updates as soon as you hear them come in, but media can easily pull us out of any moment and cause us to seem detached and uninterested in whomever we’re conversing with. Do your best to let them wait until after your conversation is over. Also, avoid interrupting the other individual to interact with those around you. We often have people, devices, obligations, etc. vying for our attention, which makes being present very difficult. If necessary, turn off your phone and find a quiet place to sit and chat. The conversation will be much more productive that way, and people will remember that you made an effort to be as present as possible.
  1. Be okay with disagreeing- It’s no secret that we all have our own opinions. If we go into conversations knowing that ours might not match those of the person we’re chatting with, we’ll be less likely to let our own thoughts and beliefs interfere with listening well. Don’t be afraid to share your thoughts, but never let them override the importance of hearing others.
  1. Be inquisitive- Look for naturally occurring space in conversation for asking appropriate questions. Doing so shows the speaker that you’re paying attention, interested in what he or she is saying, and committed to learning more. They will leave feeling that you care about the topic, as well as them as a person.
  1. Be open- Soak in what you’re hearing. Know that you are capable of learning from others and gaining insight from their perspectives. If all we do is wait for the other person to stop speaking, we entirely miss what they’re saying as we prioritize our own thoughts and beliefs over theirs.
  1. Be empathetic- As you hear their words, try and step into their shoes and imagine how they’re feeling in the moment. Once you think you have a handle to on what emotions are being represented, ask questions to make sure you understand correctly. From there, be intentional and make statements that clearly project empathy. Displaying genuine empathy is one of the best ways to open doors in relationships and creates a much deeper level of understanding for one another.

Justice is Empathy

Change begins with Understanding

From the judges, lawyers, or lawmakers to the missionaries in the jungle, there are some serious heroes out there fighting for justice. The need for justice in our culture can look insurmountable. We are overwhelmed by reports of human trafficking, poverty and genocide. We question what our role is in the justice system. What can we do?

I heard a quote today that got me thinking: “Justice is empathy.”

Screen Shot 2015 05 22 at 1.08.45 PM 300x155 Justice is EmpathyIt really can be that simple, and it can start with you. It can start in your home- with your teen.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When I empathize with the struggles of my teen, I am becoming a part of the process of bringing about justice in their world.

Richard Eyre, British Director, states, “Change begins with understanding and understanding begins by identifying oneself with another person: in a word, empathy.”

When my teen acts out, my natural reaction is not to empathize. I immediately divert to becoming angry, threatening, or lecturing. Rarely, do I stop to ask him to explain to me the emotions behind his behaviors. Rarely do I empathize with what he’s feeling.

Maya Angelou asserts, “I think we all have empathy. We may not have enough courage to display it.” Empathizing with my teen can be difficult. Sometimes it’s just hard to see where he’s coming from. Sometimes I fear that if I empathize, I may condone his behavior.

Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author for the New York Times states, “a prerequisite to empathy is simply listening to a person in pain.” Taking the time to listen rather than react in anger or frustration or hurt, opens up my heart to empathize and to see where my teen is coming from. It reminds me that I am for my son, not against him.

I can respond in ways such as, “That must be difficult” or, “That sounds like it’s been a struggle.” In Screen Shot 2015 05 22 at 1.05.36 PM 300x223 Justice is Empathyusing empathizing one-liners, I am opening the conversation to continue. I want my son to be reminded that I am for him, not against him. While I cannot condone his behavior, I can seek to understand and care about what is behind such behavior.

Empathy brings about change by listening to others, identifying with others, and caring about others. Seek empathy in your interactions with your teens as you go through the struggles of adolescence with them. In doing so, you will watch justice in action.