When I was a child, I felt that I wasn’t listened to by my parents. When I had aches or pains, it was brushed off. I often felt unheard and displaced. I remember telling my mom that my wrists hurt or that my knees hurt and I was never taken to the doctor for checkups. What happened next was that I stopped asking questions, stopped telling them I was hurt, stopped talking altogether because I felt they were not listening.
When my parents did stop what they were doing, it always seemed that they were quick to reply without stopping to think about what I was saying. Now as an adult, I wish I would have had the ability to communicate with my parents as a child. I can tell them now how their inability to sit with me and be fully present affected how our relationship has suffered. I also have to remember that how our parents were raised affects how they raised me. In the book “communication skills for teens” Skeen, McKay, Fanning, and Skeen state that “to build relationships, it’s important to really listen to others”.
If you start now, and fully be present and listen, you can build healthy habits of connecting with others that will then reflect positively towards you. Skeen, McKay, Fanning, and Skeen have four ways for you to “really listen” which includes listening to understand the other person, listening to enjoy the other person, listening to learn more about the other person, listening to help the other person.
When we use these as a guide for when we are having a conversation with a friend, acquaintance, or even your family member, you will find that you get more out of listening than you do from replying. And here is a hint, You don’t have to have answers right away. That is how you know that you were actively listening. If you need time to think after a person has discussed something with you, then you know you were actively trying to understand, enjoy, learn, and help.
Skeen, McKay, Fanning, and Skeen pointed out that the blocks to listening are when you try to compare experiences of the speaker to your own or other people when you try to mind read instead of allowing the speaker to finish what they are saying, and rehearsing what you are going to say before really engaging in listening then thinking about the most appropriate response. For example, you are telling your parent that you had a rough day and the first thing they say is “Well if you would have gone to bed earlier, you may have not been so tired”, but the real reason you had a rough day was that you found out you were not invited to a party that everyone got invited to.
In that example, the parent already had in their mind that you did something wrong and didn’t give time to fully hear the whole story. As teens, we do this to our friends, siblings, and acquaintances just as much. But, we can change this bad habit. And we can address active listening to our family and friends so that we are all being heard, genuinely.