Articles Library: Communication
Show Your Love By Listening
(Note: This article was written for Valentine’s Day, but its lessons work year-round!)
My sweet Mother, Wilma Hannaford, taught elementary school for thirty-plus years. It had been a trying day in her first-grade classroom. Richard, a difficult student, had traced her steps throughout the day, tugging at her skirt and calling her name repeatedly.
Normally extremely patient, Mother had reached her limit! She took Richard into the hall and lectured him sternly.
“Richard, you follow me everywhere, you don’t listen to me, and you don’t follow the rules. If you don’t sit down and do your work, I’m going to take you to see the principal!”
As she spoke, Richard looked at her, wide-eyed. She began to feel guilty for being so harsh. Before she could finish the thought, Richard broke the silence. “Ms. Hannaford, you’ve got white teeth just like my dog!”
Are you and I ever guilty of “listening” like Richard, seeming to pay attention but being somewhere else? Why not give those you love one of the most precious gifts of all? Listen, genuinely and lovingly. Hear your loved one out, trying to understand not only the facts but also the emotions. Here are four tips to help you make that happen.
Tips For Effective Listening
1. Put aside preconceptions.Seeing is believing? No, believing is seeing, and hearing. Preconceived ideas become filters that distort your understanding of what the person is trying to communicate. You’ll tend to zero in on “evidence” that supports your belief, while ignoring everything to the contrary. Check your preconceptions at the conversational door and listen openly.
2. Don't interrupt. Restrain yourself from the common practice of hearing a few words, jumping to conclusions about what the person is about to say, planning your response, and beginning to say it. An interruption is a sure sign you’re not listening.
3. Check for understanding. Don’t assume that you are “getting it.” Test your understanding by saying what you believe you have heard, both facts and emotions. For instance, you might say, “So you’re telling me that when I’m late coming home for dinner and don’t call, you get irritated and it sets a bad tone to the evening for you?"
4. look for agreement. Actively look for areas of agreement or mutual understanding and point those out. In addition, show empathy and understanding, letting your loved one know that you’ve had similar feelings before. Since you don’t want to sound like an adversary (really, you don’t!), emphasize commonality before discussing differences. That way, you’ll create a more constructive and cooperative emotional environment.
Kids Say the Darndest Things
Here’s a little more food for thought about listening and love. A group of kids, ages 5-10, were asked about various aspects of love.
Question: Why does love happen between two particular people?
Answer: I think you’re supposed to get shot with an arrow or something, but the rest of it isn’t supposed to be so painful. (Harlen, 8)
Thought: The results of not listening can be extremely painful, even resulting in the erosion and demise of your relationship.
Question: What do most people do on a first date?
Answer: On the first date, they just tell each other lies and that usually gets them interested enough to go on a second date. (Michael, 10)
Thought: Based on your listening and communication habits today, would your partner choose to go on a second date with you, much less marry you?
Question: What is falling in love like?
Answer: If falling in love is anything like learning how to spell, I don’t want to do it. It takes too long. (Leo, 7)
Thought: Good listening does take a little longer – but it’s worth it!
Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blog, Shrink Rap.