by Sue Kranz
Listening is one of the seven caring habits recommended by William Glasser in Choice Theory. These are the habits that, when put into practice, bring us closer to our sons and daughters – and everyone else. And the closer we are, the more influence we have.
David Augsburger wrote:
“Being listened to is so close to being loved that most people can’t tell the difference.”
There are two ways to listen:
Listening to reply.
Listening to understand.
The first is the one most of us use. While our teen is talking, we’re formulating our response: a comment, advice, a criticism, a rebuttal, a correction, a suggestion, or an opinion.
But it’s amazing what can happen when you stop rehearsing your answers and just pay attention.
Some of the greatest insights I’ve ever had came in those moments when I was talking to someone who was really present, really listening. They didn’t challenge me or interrupt to offer their opinion. They just listened and gave me a chance to hear my own words and think about what I was saying. And in their comfortable, attentive silence I found the space to really consider what I was saying and think things through. Because they didn’t judge me, I felt safe to say whatever I wanted, without feeling defensive – and I also felt safe enough to change my mind.
- Listening is about connecting with someone with the intent to understand. There are tremendous benefits to you as the listener:
- As you focus on connecting and understanding, it becomes easier to stop taking things personally.
- Focusing on what your teen is saying (rather than on your response) will quiet your mind.
- Really paying attention to what your teen thinks and feels will make them more real as people, more uniquely individual. They’ll become more than just “my kid.”
- Listening to what your teen has to say will create the safety for them to think more and share more.
Being a good listener requires two key tools:
An acknowledgement lets your teen know that you understand his or her opinion – not that you agree with or approve of the content.
Here are some examples:
- “Thanks for sharing that with me.”
- “I never saw it that way before.”
- “I feel like I understand you better now.”
- “That’s an interesting way of looking at it.”
- “You’ve given me a lot to think about.”
- “I’m so glad you took the time to explain that to me.”
- “I hear you.” (My daughter’s favourite!)
- Clarifying questions
Questions are fine as long as they’re not leading or challenging. Avoid questions like these:
- “Don’t you think…?”
- “What about…?”
- “Have you considered…?”
Instead, use questions to clarify:
- “Okay. Tell me if I got this right.”
- “You lost me when you said (fill in the blank). Can you say it again?”
- “I’m not sure I know what you mean. Can you explain?”
Using these two tools will benefit you and your teen. Use them for a few days and see what difference they make. And they’ll improve the rest of your relationships, too.
Want to know more about Choice Theory? My PDF booklet Who’s Driving YOUR Car? and handout Six Things: How to create healthy boundaries are now available for download on my website at www.sanerparenting.com/downloads/. And if you want to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, I always welcome your comments and questions!