Good, long lasting communication begins with listening. I know. It doesn't sound right. When we think of communicating we think of talking. When actually, communicating is the art of making your heart be known to those you care about. Understanding and receiving the information that your teen is trying to give you.
Many times in this dance of making ourselves heard, we seldom take the time to listen, to hear with our hearts. A lot of our time talking we "pretend" to listen until there's a gap when it's our turn to talk again. So, we're not really "hearing" the other person, we are preparing our next speech. Therefore... things do not get communicated, conflicts to not get solved, hurts do not get healed. This is especially true with our teens. As we both have an agenda and are really just "waiting" to get our point across.
Other times, we so want to help the person who has come to us in their time of need that our minds drifts to ways we can "fix" their situation. We jump to conclusions at the first hint we hear of a fixable problem and tune out the emotion that lies underneath. We want to be the "hero" parent.
True understanding of what another person is saying does not happen until FEELINGS are conveyed. When you truly "listen" for the emotion that your someone is trying to tell you, they will feel more understood, cared for and safe and you will be better able to help them, if that's indeed what they are searching for. You'll find that if you gloss over this very important part of communication, the same disagreements or conflicts will continue to come up over and over again, because whether they realize it or not, their underlying issue has not been met.
Many times it's not just words. Sometimes we can't convey our emotions and we sputter out words we don't necessarily mean. This is where your heart listening skills will become imperative. You are looking for the emotion behind the words. Listening for the heart of the matter.
Girls especially are likely to come at their parents with words. Lots of words and can leave a mom or dad baffled at what she is really wanting. Sometimes we're not even sure, we just know that something isn't right.
Guys are usually our "fixers". Skip the emotion- let's get to the fixing it part so we can call it a day. A lot of men don't seek verbal acknowledgement of things that are troubling them, they like to think that their parent will figure it out. (Hint: We are not mind-readers as much as we may pretend to be!)
So, here's a few hints to help resolve conflicts that might come up by using this skill we all have ( even if it might be a little dusty) called: listening...
- Listen for "feeling" words. Words like: hurt, sad, angry, ignored, helpless, happy, scared, insecure... for example. Those are usually the root of the issue. If you haven't learned to speak your emotion with "feeling" words, that would help a great deal. But a lot of times, they do happen to slip out so listen for them. A lot of times, our kids are just learning the skills of communication and can't formulate the words needed to express their issues. Listen beyond the words.
- Allow their emotion to reach your heart. It might sound odd at first, but if you can learn to empathize, you will be able to help your kids so much more. When you allow the emotion to touch your own heart, it will be easier to come up with a solution. Try to understand where your child is coming from, after all we've lived through it already.
- Don't rush to "fix" anything at first. Just listen. If we don't become aware of the underlying issue, we could be working on fixing the wrong things. Take a moment. Hear them out. Don't talk over them and wait until they run out of words.
- By letting your teen know that you are truly and wholeheartedly interested in finding the source of the problem, they will feel more secure. By listening, they know you are willing to listen, they are more likely to trust and take the emotion down a notch, so that healing can actually begin without "walls" in the way.
- Don't judge. Don't belittle. Don't jump to conclusions. Don't be defensive. Just listen. You'll get your turn. When you develop a relationship that allows you to feel secure to come to each other with problems or conflicts knowing that they will still be loved even if you have issues to work out, will make your relationship stronger than you ever thought possible.
Effective communication, is one of the core values of a healthy relationship. We are all going to have conflict or feel troubled. It is important that you be there for your kids to hear what's on their heart. Be willing to listen and give your child the security of being in a trusted, safe, unconditionally loved place.