I've been contemplating the whole concept of listening recently and how crucial it is to both the parent and the child. As infants, our children depend on our listening abilities for us, as parents, to read their minds and meet their non-verbalized needs. We as mothers tend to fall asleep with one ear perked, constantly listening and ready to spring to the baby's call at any given hour. And as the child grows and begins to try his skill at words, we attentively listen to help him form his tiny sounds and complete his short, simple sentences. It's from this moment on that the dialogue between parent and child begins and the give and take slowly forms their relationship.
The way we, as parents, listen to our sons and daughters also leads to the establishment of their own self worth. Depending on our openness to what they have to say or our quick dismissal of their side of the conversation, our babies could grow up to value themselves and feel assured in their choices as adults, or struggle with indecision and self-love throughout their lives and future relationships. Like it or not, we determine our children's success of independence and maturity through the simplest and most difficult task of listening.
It's a tough thing to admit that even as full-grown adults, we thrive on being listened to as an affirmation of self-importance. I realize that listening well, more than anything else that I can do as a counselor, can change the entire direction of a conversation as well as shift the mood of the environment from impossible to possible. It's a crucial skill and one that I need to practice at regularly.
Some days I just don't listen well. I'm too stuck inside my own head, or too eager to solve the problem that I miss extremely important nuances that could clue me in to what is at the core of an issue. This isn't just with clients, but also with my family. My spouse will point out how he doesn't feel listened to, or my boys will say my name umpteen times, desperate to tell me something that matters to them. If I'm honest with myself, sometimes I actually just do not care about whatever is significant enough to my family members that they HAVE to share it with me. Sometimes I'm just distracted by whatever seems more crucial to me at the moment. Sometimes it's painful for me to patiently sit and listen ...and not interject. But when I stop being selfish; when I halt my own thoughts for a moment; when I realize that these people are what's MOST important to me, then I can make room for what's important to them. I can make a silent space for them to express themselves openly and completely.
Today I leave you with a challenge: Make the effort to listen.
No matter how challenging, frustrating, or excruciating it may be, LISTEN. And when you feel yourself forming your response or you notice your thoughts wandering off while your loved one speaks, draw yourself back into this person and their words. In the end, you will build a new level of mutual trust and support in your relationship. You will show your genuine care for that person and give them the feeling of being understood. Isn't that the one thing we all desire? Who knew that listening was the answer to so many pursuits.