In my family the Thanksgiving table is a place of harmony, tranquility, soft music, and the lure of candlelight illuminating the beautifully roasted turkey (NOT!). Are you kidding me?! I have been trapped at so many holiday gatherings with people I don’t know, or do know but I’m no at all involved in what they are saying at the table. One Thanksgiving my nephew and his wife invited me down to their home to share Thanksgiving with their neighbor, and a bunch of the neighbor’s friends. I thought that would be just fine. I do well in crowds, and can connect with people quite easily. Well at the dinner table the topic of Walmart came up, which I am not a fan. I kept my opinions to myself about this topic because the people at the table were enamored with this chain but my nephew on the other hand threw me under the bus, and told the entire table that I don’t like Walmart. Everyone at the table stared and then chuckling stated: “Next thing you’ll tell us is that she’s a democrat…” My nephew looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and I knew I was in for some trouble. There was an audible gasp around the whole table when I confessed, that; yes, in fact I am a democrat. I know better then to talk politics, religion, etc with strangers especially when you know that the company you’re with will not agree with your point of view. Needless to say I did my very best to stay neutral, answer their questions as diplomatically as I could as to why I could possibly be a democrat. It was hard, and very awkward for me. I guess what I couldn’t believe is that they were all listening to me, and that is a rare occasion at a full dining room table. I’m sure if I was talking about the volunteer work I was doing with Public Schools I wouldn’t have had near the attention.
Regardless, listening is a very important skill, and one in which we all need practice. Minus the incident I had in the above paragraph I usually like to feel heard, and listened to; as do most of us but rarely are we really heard. We are usually distracted by our own thoughts, our technology, and our own personal history with the person with whom we are speaking to. Our minds think a lot faster then we hear. “The average human listens at a rate of 125-250 words a minute but thinks at a speed of up to 3,000 words a minute.”
Here are some techniques that the experts say could help us do a better job at listening:
- Put away your technologies (cell phone, tablets, etc.) as in get them out of your sight, and don’t look at them when you’re having an in person conversation with someone.
- Listen with a purpose of trying to follow a plot of their story (this can be difficult especially if people are speaking rather slowly or get off topic)
- This is a funny tip I’ve never heard before: Forget about your face. Most people worry about their own face when someone is looking you in the eye talking. People find that they are trying to give correct responses to what people are saying so they’re wondering if they should raise an eyebrow, nod their head, and all of that keeps us from really listening.
- Practice listening. When you’re by yourself try to listen to news stories on a news radio channel for about 10 minutes, and then turn it off and repeat out loud what you heard to yourself adding your own ideas to what you heard (I do this all the time, and thought I was pretty silly not for practice but because I wanted to share my opinion even if it was shared with nobody. Maybe my dog).
Now let’s talk about listening to children
Listening to children is one of the best gifts you can give to a child but, let’s face it; it isn’t an easy task. A child’s self-esteem comes from being listened to, and taken seriously. So, when a child tells you about their fantasy world of robots, monsters, etc. they need to know that you’re hearing them, and in a way that is non-judgmental (hide the smirks). When they’re upset about something let them; what I like to say: “bleed out” without interruption, with love, and openness. It is a fascinating experience listening to children because they have such unique insight to their life. By honestly listening without patronizing your children you will be able to teach your child how to be a good listener themselves.
Good Luck for the upcoming listening opportunities.