When we’re busy doing everything to provide for our family, we sometimes don’t realize that it’s important to take some time out to drop what we’re doing and just listen to our child or our spouse. Active listening is not only an important skill, but it is also a crucial factor in affecting the quality of a spousal or a parent-child relationship.
There was a period of time when my young daughter would go to my wife to discuss things and would no longer talk to me nor share with me her days like she used to do. I was very busy with my work at that time, so I didn’t realize at first. Over time, I started to feel the “isolation” more and more.
One day, at an opportune time, I talked to my daughter and tried to find out what was going on. We used to be very close, so it was not a problem for me. However, my daughter was hesitant to reveal the real reason at first.
When I managed to break the “ice” further, my daughter finally told me that she didn’t really feel like discussing the important stuff with me anymore. The reason was because she had been trying to talk to me before, and I always responded with “Yeah”, “Yes”, “Umm…”, or a nod, however she later found out that I hadn’t listened to what she was saying. Sometimes, she would talk to me for a while, only to get my response of “Huh?”, and she would need to repeat herself all over again because I wasn’t even paying attention to what she was saying.
Needless to say, she felt frustrated with me and chose other people or other options of sharing her stuff.
I later found out that my wife also felt the same way.
Realizing all these, I felt so sorry, because this kind of behavior was exactly what I didn’t want to show in my family. I explained to them that I didn’t do it on purpose, and my mind was most probably occupied with something important that I was working on when they were talking with me. They said they know and understand, that’s why they chose not to bother me with their stuff.
I decided to change this kind of behavior. I now always make it a point to drop what’s on hand (and also on my mind) and practice active listening when my wife or my daughter wants to talk to me. It has made a lot of difference (in a good way) to our family relationship.
Another important thing I realized was that when our loved ones want to talk to us, usually they just want to share with us what’s on their mind. Unless they specifically ask for advice or help from us to solve their problems, usually they just want us to listen to them, and that’s all. We don’t have to solve their problems for them. Before I realized this, I always thought that I had to have a solution or an advice for my wife or daughter when they share with me some issue they had. Sometimes this could put some delay in my response to them, and sometimes this could also put some pressure on myself to solve their issues for them. I now realize that this is totally unnecessary and there is a more effective method in this kind of communication.
I learned a good method for this in my Parenting Coach Training from the Jai Institute For Parenting. When we don’t know how to respond, we can simply repeat back to the person what we just heard from that person. Use back the same language and same terms that the other person was using. This does not mean that it’s a trick method so that you don’t have to listen with your heart. Instead, it sets the foundation of your communication so that you could both move on to deeper communication. I’ve used this method many times, and it is very effective. This makes the other person feel heard, feel that you value what they’re saying, and feel that you understand what they’re saying.
I hope you give this method a try, and that you take time out to listen to your loved ones no matter how busy you might be. It is always worth it!