“Listen to understand, not to respond.”
I have spent the past several years offering the above advice. I have explained that often we listen while planning our response, and in doing so, we do not truly hear what is being said. Once we really listen and understand what we are hearing, it will be our turn to say what we want to say.
But I realized this weekend that there is a better way to explain what I have been trying to teach.
“Listen and acknowledge; then respond.”
When my 3 year old asks for a cookie while I’m cooking to dinner, I am not just going to say “No”.
I am going to say, “Oh, a cookie does sound good. But it’s too close to dinner.”
When my 8 year old, on a rainy day, asks if we can go miniature golfing, I am not just going to say “No”.
I am going to say, “That is a fun thing to do. But we won’t be able to go today.”
When my teen tells me about a new local restaurant, I am not just going to ask him about his homework.
I am going to say “That sounds great; let’s go sometime”. Then I’ll ask about homework. (Because we always ask about homework.)
I am going to acknowledge what I just heard.
I am going to say something that directly addresses what my child has just said.
I am going to show my child that I heard what she said, that I care about what she said.
By doing so, my child will feel heard and understood.
And then my child will be ready to listen to me.