Most of us are not good listeners. We listen at about 25 percent of our potential, which means we ignore, forget, distort or misunderstand 75 percent of what we hear. It’s hard to believe perhaps, but true. Such listening habits can be very costly to our personal relationships.
Listening is a skill that anyone can learn, and it is also a gift that anyone can give. It is a gift of a person’s time and attention. Listening is an acknowledgment of caring. Honest listening encourages our partner or children to feel more accepted. They feel validated and honored when listened to. It does not mean that you have to always agree, it just means you have to listen.
Poor listening skills lead to the breakdown in communication in a marriage and families. Some families try to speak over each other rather than giving each a chance to express their feelings. They are busy trying to prove their point or be the one who is “right”. Undiagnosed bad habits such as interrupting, allowing ourselves to be distracted, giving advise, jumping to conclusions, daydreaming or giving in to boredom prevent us from becoming the kind of listeners we think we are. Listening to a family member, child or spouse is as important as you speaking up and being heard. When you are willing to listen, your relationships immediately improve.
By listening to your children, you are communicating that they are worthy of your attention. By hearing their distress, you are demonstrating that their view of the world has merit. Allowing them time to decide their course of action indicates that you trust in their ability to solve problems. Really listening to your children is the best way to create a caring relationship in which they see you as being supportive and as a person they can always turn to in good and bad times.
Some common listening blocks include: when I ask you to listen to me and you start giving advice, you have not done what I asked; when I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings; when I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. Listen! All I asked was that you listen … not talk to, or do, Just hear!
Make listening a priority. You can nurture and strengthen your relationship through better listening skills. Test yourself and see how long you can remain silent while another is speaking to you. We often react very quickly especially if we do not like what we are “hearing”. Change begins with an honest self-evaluation of our strengths and weaknesses.
For further information on listening, contact Hellenic Therapy Center, 567 Park Avenue, Scotch Plains. We have a team of licensed professionals who provide individual, family, children and marital therapy. We are available day, evening and weekend hours. Visit www.hellenictherapy.com or call 908-322-0112.