Knowledge is Power!
Have you ever been talking to someone about something important to you and realized they were not listening to a thing you had said? That really stinks and I am sure we have all experienced that at some point. American Law expert and founder John Marshall once said "To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to speak well."
One of the biggest problems in relationships is that people have stopped listening to one another. Even if you think you are the good listener and it is your partner that needs to change read the rest of this article and learn how to be even better. Then along the way you can pass this information to them.
Unfortunately for most people they have forgotten they were given two ears and only one mouth, they like to speak much more than they like to listen. Listening is the most overlooked part of the communication process. So how can you become a better listener:
Give the speaker your undivided attention. Put aside your text messages, books, and other distractions and focus on what the other person is saying. It has been shown in studies that people who "multi-task" actually have a net loss. What I mean is that the brain can only work on one thing at a time and with multi-tasking it is just jumping between the things rapidly. When you focus on one thing, for instance someone who is speaking to you, and save the other things for later you get more efficient use of your brain's power.
Not only focus on the speaker's words, but visualize them. Give yourself mental images to go along with the things that they are saying. This is actually a better way to remember things than taking notes. When you do this you will focus in on the images that you think you can take action on immediately and you will make effective use of the time you spent listening.
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As you create mental images form questions that come into your mind normally as you listen and ask the speaker to answer those questions. When you ask a question it gives the communicator a different way to relay the information so that you can understand it.
At this stage, a parent needs to learn to ask 'open-ended' questions. An open-ended question is little more than a question that requires more than a one or two word answer. Let's say that your teen comes home from school and you want to find out how his or her day was. Many parents will simply ask: "How was your day? or "How was school today?" This question works with younger children because they are usually eager to share their day with you. However, a teen will generally answer with "Okay" and leave it at that. The parent is left thinking that their teen doesn't want to talk to them anymore. Getting more than an "Okay" is like pulling teeth!
An open-ended question requires more of an answer than "Okay" or "Yes" or "No". A parent could instead ask: "What did you learn at school today?" or "What are you studying in your English class?" Your teen may answer "Nothing". Don't give up. Be creative. Keep asking questions that have the potential to start a conversation. "Tell me about that book you are reading for class." (Okay, that really isn't a question, but you get the general idea.) "That movie we watched the other night is still bothering me. What did you think about it?" This has the potential to start a conversation.
Another tactic parents can use to try and get their teens to converse with them is to share about their day. For instance: "I had a really crappy day. Mind if I vent about it with you for a few minutes?" This will usually get them sharing more than simple answers. If you know some of their friends, you can always ask about them. "How's Mark doing lately? He has been on my mind a lot."
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