Learning to Listen

“You don’t scare me.  I have three teenagers at home.”  Actual words I said recently.

This stage is growing me more than any before.  The biggest area of growth I think is learning how to listen.  Well, learning how to listen to a teenager.

Active Listening
The kids know when I’m not really listening and just throwing in a Wow! or That’s cool! simply to keep things moving.  I have to stop, make eye contact, listen, and ask questions.  This isn’t teenager specific, I’m finding it’s just good manners.  Also, when they feel heard and understood, their hearts are much softer and open to advice.

Poker Face
I find myself freaking out on the inside, sometimes on the outside, at what is being shared or questioned.  But here’s my big take-away: if I freak out, they stop talking.  I must always keep them talking, which means I must always really listen, and not ever freak out.  They instantly feel judged and/or misunderstood.  Seriously, I have a wicked good poker face.

Delicate Responses
Again, the words that come out of my mouth will either continue the conversation or shut it down immediately.  I’ve learned a couple phrases that are capable of continuing the conversation, some day my kids will realize I’m just on repeat.

Do you just need me to listen, or can I offer some advice?
And then if they only want me to listen I really, really, definitely have to just listen.  With the poker face.  And amazingly, the calmer I stay, the more they’re willing to listen to advice.

I wonder if…
This makes me sound like I don’t actually know what they should do or say next, but it’s simply offered up as an idea just now popping into my head.  I do know, though.  Shhhh…Poker face.

Can I make an observation?
This is similar to the first one, but it’s not worded as advice, so it seems harmless.

It may sound like I’m being manipulative, I really don’t think that’s it.  I think it’s learning how they communicate and how you can continue to be an influence in their lives without shoving it down their throats.  They already know my opinion about just about everything, it doesn’t need to be repeated.

Walk alongside them.
Be present when they need you.
Hug them when they need you (or even when they don’t, that’s just fun).
Build their confidence in you and your wisdom.
Be trustworthy.
Be respectful.

It’s amazing what you can get in return, both in terms of communication and relationship.