Tips for Becoming the Kind of Listener Your Family Needs


Four of the most piercing words my husband has ever said occurred yesterday: “Honey, you’re not listening.” He was trying to tell me a story that I thought I already knew. I was trying to be “Super Woman” and wow him with my quick and mighty problem-solving powers. Silly, superhero! My husband didn’t want or even need to be saved—he just hoped to be heard.

In my rush to “make it all better,” I neglected two of the most important gifts a family member can offer: the opportunity to be listened to and the chance to feel understood.  What follows are this superhero’s “quick tips” for slowing down and becoming a better listener:

Tips for Becoming a Better Listener

1. Be Quiet

It may sound obvious, but all of your best listening will be accomplished when you are not busy talking! I had forgotten that.

2. Be Focused

When your brain is racing through possible responses, words of advice, or dinner plans (!) you aren’t genuinely focusing on what anyone is saying. Give the gift of your full attention.

3. Be Attuned

Look into their eyes, nod at the right moments, lean forward, offer a hand, smile, or give a hug. Use your body language to communicate interest.

4. Be Empathic

Do you remember how intensely you feel peer, family, and social issues? Take a brief walk in your family member's shoes and view the world from his perspective. It’s often an amazing view when we take the time to consider life from a perspective different than our own.

5. Be Open

Listen to all of what is being said before giving advice, handing , or assuring that, “I know just how they feel.” Don’t allow pre-conceived notions to influence how you process what he says.

6. Be Inquisitive

If jargon-y phrases are being used or something is said that you don’t understand, ask him about it. Well-timed, genuine questions show that you are truly listening and have a real desire to understand.

7. Be Committed

When you commit to making a family member feel truly heard and genuinely understood, you can overcome most obstacles to effective listening.

What tips have helped you to become a better listener?

By Signe Whitson, a licensed social worker and Chief Operating Officer of the Life Space Crisis Intervention Institute. As a mom of two young daughters, she shares her knowledge with other parents for My Baby Clothes Boutique. Stop by and check out some adorable tutus, baby headbands, and leggings for your precious little girl. Check out Signe’s blog about passive aggressive behavior for more of her great parenting advice.

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