Life Skills Ponderings

Listening? Do You? Do I?

This is an area that I have spent quite a bit of time thinking about, pondering over, fussing about, etc.  We start early on when we are very young learning to cue into what was being said by the people around us… even if we as very young children didn’t know how to express ourselves through words, we did know how to “listen” to what was going on around us.  I remember when our son, Sean, was a baby… as long as he didn’t hear Loren or I up in the mornings, he would peacefully play in his crib… but once he heard us… all *&*&* broke loose and he wanted up..

But as we grew up and learned to express ourselves through words… we wanted to be “heard”… so listening sometimes became secondary.  Sometimes we talked because we had something to say, other times just to hear our own voices…

We’ve learned along the way that just because a person is quiet that doesn’t mean they “hear” you.  Their quietness could mean l. They are thinking of something else 2. They are trying to formulate an answer to what they perceive you are saying 3. They are daydreaming 4. They think they know what you are saying so they let their minds wander 5. They may actually be tuned into and comprehending what you are saying.  So, so far it is a crap shoot.  You really don’t know.  As a parent and a teacher – teaching with lots of “learning under my belt” but very little actual “get in front of a group of kids and interact” skills and parenting the OJT (On the Job Training) … we learned early on that kids don’t listen.  We, as parents and teachers, then, tend to get louder and louder to be heard…  Which in turn, caused the kids to tune us out even more… desensitizing their hearing to our pitches.   How long did it take you to figure this out?

I started figuring it out my first year teaching… at the end of the end of the year, I asked the students what they liked and disliked…. The total consensus was they loved everything except for when “Miss Witcraft (yep, maiden name) yelled.”… I wasn’t even aware I had been yelling – the entire year.  I made a decision then to lower my voice if things got stressful and the kids weren’t listening… believe me, that worked for the 20 years of teaching… and the parenting years….  So I got them to listen… but did they hear me?  I learned that when I lectured my kids…  not proud to admit, but, yes, I lectured – sometimes when I had those “blank” eyes stare back at me, I’d start all over again.. still softly.. still blank stares.  Then – a lightbulb went off… I started asking them to repeat what I had said…  You’d better believe they started “hearing” me.  The lectures became short little discussions… I spoke, they heard… When I really knew they weren’t listening – I quit talking all together – I just stared… then, believe me – they started to listen….

People tend to hear what they want to hear instead what is actually being said.  How are you doing in this area?  Do you “hear” what is being said?  Are you an active listener or a passive listener?  Just remember being quiet when “talking” is going on – doesn’t make you an active listener.  Sometimes one need to hear the whole concept being spoken before randomly glomming onto a piece that perhaps is out of context. You may be making an assumption before you understand what is being said. (…and you all know what assume does, right?) Think about all the things you may be missing if you are a passive listener.

In this journey of self discovery that I am on… I realize that I am a good active listener… I learned this early on and never (even in those boring college lectures) ever lost the ability.  Today, I give myself a pat on the back… today – A+!!!!   Are you a good listener?  Can you “listen” to verbal and non-verbal cue?  How are you doing anyway?  Love to hear from you…  Oh, I “hear” the coffee pot beeping…. Telling me to come and pour a hot cup of java…. Join me?

3 thoughts on “Listening? Do You? Do I?”

  1. I think truly listening require presence. To listen one needs to be in the now and engaged in the subject. The techniques you mentioned, asking for the information to be repeated, staring, etc. sound like good tools to help bring people back to the present, much better tools than yelling I think.
    I know I sometimes don’t listen well, I loose my grounding and my ego carries on the conversation. Sometimes this can work well for me. However in important conversations I really work on grounding and being present in the moment.
    I am going to try and use you examples to engage my listeners and see if I can communicate my message better also.

  2. I have heard about the more you yell the more they tune you out and you would think I would have mastered it by now–ha–going on the grading scale I probably get a D. I do occasionally remember it and I do ATTEMPT to talk to my children though about the time things are going well all you know what is breaking loose with the other two. But I think as I get more centered myself and more comfortable in my own skin I won’t see the need to dominate the conversation by yelling. I am pretty good about getting the kids to repeat back to me what I’m saying–but I’m still not sure they are really listening–either that or they are choosing to not DO what was discussed because usually ten minutes after a conversation everything is right back the way it was beforehand. Oh well–each day is a new one. Gotta run–sick daughter wanting some attention. Have a good day.

  3. wow, an A+ — good for you! I’ve gotten lots better at this but not an A student yet. and another fascinating thing to do … watch other people not listening when a heated discussion is occuring. it’s a wonder anything ever gets decided (and no surprise that it usually doesn’t when no one is listening 😉

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *