Being a parent, especially the parent of a teen, allows you an opportunity to develop your listening skills.
There is an art to listening.
Those on the other end — those being listened to — appreciate that art because they are being heard. That is sometimes all a child wants. They are not looking for advice, a solution or an opinion but simply to be heard.
In The Sacred Art of Listening, Kay Lindahl writes, “Perhaps one of the most precious and powerful gifts we can give another person is to really listen to them, to listen with quiet, fascinated attention, with our whole being, fully present.”
The art of listening requires practice, and you develop your skills over time. It is not necessarily something you were taught — except possibly by example, meaning you might currently listen to others as you were listened to as a child.
True listening requires presence. Often we believe we are listening, but really we are thinking of what we want for dinner, the email that we didn’t reply to or the gas tank that needs to be filled. Listening requires dropping the agenda, letting go of your running thoughts and minimizing your need to fix things. It requires slowing down.
Listening requires curiosity. What is the other person feeling? What experiences led to their conclusion? What is it that they want? What can I learn about this unique human being that I didn’t know before?
Listening is enhanced with eye contact. It is recognized by the nod of your head in response or by a simple, “Huh.”
Listening requires talking less, which has the added benefit of lessening the number of power struggles you might have with your child. One of the key shifts when your child becomes a teen is to talk less and listen more.
Listening might mean holding space and seeing someone as greater than their behavior in that moment. That is true when your child has a meltdown, fails a test or gets into a fight with a sibling. Listening can be incredibly nurturing when your child wasn’t chosen to be on a team, was not invited to a party that other friends and classmates are attending, or has had a breakup. That is the time to listen from the heart and to the heart.
Lindahl says the guidelines to conscious listening are “suspending assumptions and judgments and listening to understand rather than to agree or believe.”
Think of what you appreciated most from the last time you were truly heard. Then practice consciously listening to your child. The payoff is huge.