I was working with a group in a school when one of those spur of the moment decisions became a valuable learning tool not just for me but also for them.
The group was wonderful, lively, entertaining bunch of 14 children. Most sessions they’d be full of energy and loved the activities and games. More often than not when it was more conversational this energy was transferred to talking, or interrupting. Nothing particularly unusual but as it continued I removed myself a little and just took a moment to look at the group and see what was happening. Who was being ignored? Who was interrupting? And I asked myself, what’s going on here? While there may have been some individual reasons, I wondered if there was a blanket explanation. As I considered and discounted ideas, the one constant thought seemed to answer my question. After all, how else do we learn other than through modelling the behaviour we see on a regular basis?
So I tested this idea. I paired them up and set them the task of listening. One person would talk, while the other just listened. The listener could listen and acknowledge what they heard. They were also allowed to ask 2 questions about the subject, but always had to reflect the conversation and not to bring in anything about themselves. They’d switch roles after 2 minutes.
Then we came back as a group to share the experiences.
I asked them,’What did it feel like to be listened to?’ The overwhelming answer was that it felt weird. And they were right, you could see as they were listening during the exercise that it was uncomfortable for them. They’re recount was 100% accurate. Of course it felt weird. It was something that they’d not often, or rarely, experienced before.
So maybe we take some learning for ourselves, and think about behaviour you might not like and ask yourself, ‘What’s my behaviour like? What could I do differently here?’. And, if it’s an issue with listening, then maybe take the time to practise active listening at the dinner table or any time where you can engage with what your child is talking (read Dinner Table Talk to see this in action). Listening might just be the needed and necessary step for your child to be heard.
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Ben Jackson is a registered counsellor, coach, and lecturer with nearly 10 years of professional experience. He helps clients with stress and anxiety, anger management, self esteem, confidence, and depression.
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