Our children (and all people) want to feel valued, recognized, and appreciated. Mothers can lead by example and show children what active, truly engaged listening looks like—and more importantly—what it feels like. By actively listening to our children and their interests, we show them that we truly care, strengthening not only their self-esteem, but also the depth of our connection. Mothers often want to teach—but sometimes—it is best to fully immerse ourselves in listening—and not just with our ears, but with our hearts. American author, William Feather, said, “You never get people’s fuller attention than when you are listening to them.”
Body Language & Tone of Voice
Body language conveys additional information, transmitting levels of authenticity not deliverable with the spoken word. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and physical gestures often say as much as (or more than) words. With an open posture and welcoming eye contact, we encourage people to share their thoughts and feelings, offering a receptiveness that we truly want to hear what they have to say. Crossed arms and legs suggest a certain defensiveness that subtly suppresses the talk track. Nodding, smiling, and making “yes” / “uh huh” sounds (as appropriate), leaning toward someone ever so slightly… these all convey that we are listening and influence more of a free-flowing conversation.
Some people are unaware of how significantly their tone-of-voice can impact the quality and success of communication. The ability to interpret deeper meaning inferred by tone-of-voice is an incredibly important skill: harness this power to hear—and understand—more than just the spoken word.
Focus on Listening (Not on Replying)
American author, Stephen Covey, said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.” Our human nature has us so focused on formulating commentary to serve our own needs that we seldom truly listen. Break the habit of listening while planning what to say next. God gave us two ears and one mouth, using them proportionally sets the stage for healthier conversations. Suppress emotional reactions to what we hear, speak less, listen more, and refrain from assuming we know what someone is going to say. By spending less time thinking about what we want, we can focus all our energy on understanding things from the other person’s point of view.
When we interrupt someone, we create one of two impressions: 1) we believe our opinion is more important, or 2) we don’t have the time to listen to them. There can be a ton of value derived in allowing someone time to express themself. Remember, a pause or a few seconds of silence is not necessarily an invitation for us to share our two cents. Be mindful that fidgeting and distracted behaviors are interruptions. Face-to-face, when it’s time to truly listen, we show respect by ignoring phones, computers, and watches—these devices all undermine the health of in-person communication.
Ask Questions to Confirm Understanding
By asking relevant clarifying questions, we show that we are working to ensure nothing is misconstrued. Paraphrasing, summarizing, and repeating what has been said shows that we are tuned in and encourages the speaker to correct any misunderstanding. We can take this to the next level, asking open-ended questions such as “How did that make you feel?” and “What did you do next?” When someone knows we truly desire to feel where they are coming from, we further endear ourselves to them as a trusted confidant.
Refrain from Offering Unsolicited Advice
Our opinions and solutions might be wonderful! Are they desired? Are they warranted? Lending a listening, supportive ear can be so much more appropriate and well received than telling someone what WE think THEY should do. Generally, people prefer to come up with their own solutions. If a loved one wants to tell you how they’re feeling and get something off their chest, arbitrary advice about what they should do might be poorly received. If we really feel compelled to share our “brilliant” solution, first and foremost, ask their opinion and truly, deeply listen to their thoughts, feelings, and intentions. Then and only then, and before sharing our opinion, ask them, “Would you like to know what I think?”
By listening with energy from both our mind and body, we demonstrate genuine interest. Rather than focusing on our own thoughts, we become far better communicators by striving to understand the other person. We can ask lots of questions to help with clarity and reduce the likelihood of miscommunication. Sometimes, friends and family members just need to vent; it’s important to know our bounds, not overstep them, and be the listening ear.
“My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body.” —Proverbs 4:20-22 NLT
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PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Mothers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.