Active listening is a powerful communication tool designed to really increase a person's self esteem. It is more powerful than passive listening and more effective.
This tool is used to mirror our children’s statements with feeling. What does this mean? It is a way for parents to suss out and validate what their kids are feeling. No opinions, feedback, judgements, or advice is given by the parent.
I know this can be awkward, different, or uncomfortable. However, that is true about any thing new that is tried for the first time. All it takes is a little practice. The key is to identify what the child is feeling then mirror back what they are expressing with feeling. If you don't do the mirroring back with feeling, you are merely parroting what they are expressing.
I am going to pickup my 4 year old son Jason at his Daycare near the University. When I get there Jas says to me “ Daddy I want to take out a book on dinosaurs”. I am the last parent to pick up their child and the Daycare is waiting for me so they can close up shop. They have a small in house library which is now closed. I said to my son “I’m sorry Jas, the library is closed and you’ll have to get the book out tomorrow”.
He looked at me, and said angrily, “You stupid cracker” (I did everything I could to not burst out laughing). Then I said (after I recovered) You’re really mad at me (with feeling). Jas says “I want that book” And that was the end of that. He had his angry moment, got to express that to me and once I used active listening and emotionally validated what he was feeling, he let it go.
Then he was back to his usual funny, curious 4 yr old self telling me to sit down in my truck and he would tell me all the facts about dinosaurs.
By emotionally validating Jason, he got to see that his feelings were important. Rather than being a reasonable parent and explaining things , or being impatient with him, or not really listening and telling him to hurry up and get ready, I mirrored back his angry statement to me with feeling.
More examples - Notice the feeling behind the words of the child.
Tommy: I’m on the basketball team. I was picked for the basketball team. (said with much excitement)
Parent.: You’re really feeling great about being on the basketball team. (with feeling)
Tommy: Yeah, I can hardly wait to play.
Andrea: I really hate my teacher.
Parent: You’re awfully disappointed in your teacher. (with feeling)
Andrea: Yes I am. I wish she was nicer.
What we do when we active listen to our kids, is validate their experience from an emotional viewpoint. This experience of really being heard from a parent, helps to promote mutual love, warmth and respect between parent and child. The child also gets to see that feelings are friendly, even the angry ones. They also get to see as does the parent, that feelings once validated, don’t last very long. One minute they are here, the next they are gone.
Active listening also promotes problem solving by the child. The “ball” is kept in the child’s court as he or she is figuring things out.
Another great benefit of active listening, is once the child really feels listened to, he or she will more likely listen to a parents thoughts, feelings and ideas.
The same process holds true for adults. By active listening to our partners, family and friends, we are emotionally validating them. This also promotes love, trust and respect between each party. When our partners are really listened to, they are more than likely to listen to us in the same way. A win win is created.
Tom: I don’t feel like going out for dinner tonite. I’m so tired. That was a busy day at the office.
Jane: You’re really feeling tired and just want to stay home tonite. (with feeling)
Tom: Yeah, and I feel guilty too cause I know you were looking forward to going out.
Jane: And you’re feeling bad too. (with feeling)
Tom: Yes I am.
Jane: Well I don’t feel like cooking which was the reason I wanted to go out, so how about we order in?
Tom. That sounds great, let’s do that.
Jane: I’ll get the phone.
It feels so good to be emotionally validated. It's like our total emotional being is completely accepted. When we experience it we want our partners to experience it too. Again, this creates a tremendous increase in self esteem for both parties.
Active listening can really make a difference in our relationships with our kids, spouses, family members and friends. It promotes mutual love, trust and respect and greatly increases self esteem. Imagine our kids growing up to be respectful loving teenagers and adults who listen to us as much as we listen to them. A great win win is created!