I have really been examining my listening skills lately. Realizing in that examination that often I am either distracted or I try to talk my kids and partner out of what they’re feeling or wanting or needing. Really. A little song, dance, explanation or solution to get them back to happy. Even when they don’t want a fix, I offer it. Even when they’re really just venting, I try to convince them that it’s not true what they’re experiencing or feeling. Even when they don’t need me to do anything but just be there and listen, I tend to talk, offer solutions and ideas. Sometimes on top of their own words. Too many words. Too much noise. Too much input.
I’ve always been a talker, that much is true. I even have a certificate from 8th grade proving it: MOST TALKATIVE. As if that wasn’t enough there is another one right behind it: CLASS CLOWN. A dangerous combination in the classroom has become even more treacherous in the home.
But I’m trying to change that.
Not that I’m going to get all quiet and serious. Hell no. But I am going to try to shut it a bit more when my family is talking. I am going to try to just let the good members of my family vent, share, talk, express and even ramble a little bit. (Is that a judgment? the ramble part?) It has taken me a long time to learn/realize that when they are talking, for the most part they’re not really seeking input. Rather they just want a sounding board. And with all of them, from the nearly 5 year old on up to the 45 year old partner, the more I let them talk, the more I listen, the more I learn and the more they eventually come to their own conclusions about what they want/need/feel. Without any help from their armchair psychologist/class clown of a mother/partner.
It’s kind of hard for me but in the end it’s really way easier. And it’s good for me to have a daily goal. And in the end too there are/will be far fewer arguments, hurt feelings, misunderstandings and the like. And there are/will be far more own conclusions and remedies for what is ailing them.
There are lots of words for it: empathic listening, active listening, responsive listening, reflective listening. And there are lots of amazing books on it and experts. But really, what it boils down to for me is presence to the people I’m with and the task at hand. In this case the people being family and the task being to just be there. Pure and simple.