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Improve your listening and improve your relationships

This article was originally written for parents but the tips in it can be applied to any conversation either with a child, teenager or adult and can help boost confidence and improve that relationship.

‘If I had to pick a single suggestion that was designed to help virtually all relationships and family problems, it would be to become a better listener.’ Richard Carlson.

As parents we spend most of the time talking to our children and very little time listening.  Some books quote the figures as high as 90% talking and 10% listening. Most relationships can be improved if we take the time and effort to actively listen.

 Here are some tips for improving your listening skills.

  • Remember we have two ears and one mouth. Use them in the same ratio and listen twice as much as you talk.
  • Stop whatever you are doing, turn off the TV or radio and give your focus to listening.
  • Listen with your eyes – look for those non verbal clues, does your child look happy, sad etc
  • Listen with your heart – listen without judging, stay focused on what your child is saying and remember you love them even when you may be hearing things you would rather not have to.
  • Listen at child level – whether this is kneeling for a toddler, sitting with an older child on your lap or on eye level with your teenager. Get to whatever level you need to be at.
  • Look into their eyes this can help you understand what they are saying, but remember if you are the parent of a teenager too much direct eye contact can embarrass them.
  • Empathise - try and feel what they might be feeling. Try and remember what it was like to be at school or a teenager facing those issues.
  • Paraphrase and summarise what they have said this helps ensure you have understood. If you need to ask questions to understand try open ended questions those that cannot be answered with a yes or no, such as how did you feel about that? Or simply ask tell me more.
  • Make encouraging noises – the mms and uh huhs help show the talker they have your attention.
  • Use encouraging body language – nod, lean forward slightly.
  • Resist the temptation to jump in straight away with an answer or a solution. It is much more empowering for a child (or in fact anyone) to work out an answer for themselves.  If someone is really struggling to find an answer by all means help them out with some ideas to think about.

It may feel strange to begin with but really listening and understanding your child whatever their age shows respect, encourages them and boosts your their self esteem.

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