Communication is a vital part of creating and maintaining relationships. Now that your children are clear on how to achieve what they want with positive effective behaviors and how to express their wishes, they need to be able to really hear and effectively listen to what the other person (sibling or other) is telling them.
Have you ever had the experience of talking to your child and getting no answer? If you have kids between 4 and 20, I know that has happened to you! Inevitably, a few minutes later you get a delayed response as though they only just heard you, right? Well…that’s exactly what has happened!
There is a difference between hearing and listening. What happened in the scenario above is your child heard you but was not listening. After you have spoken, they realize something has been said. Later, they play it back in their mind and this is when they listen and respond.
You see, we hear with our ears but we listen with our brain. Hearing is what happens when the sound waves travel into the ear. Listening is what our brain does, it gives the sound waves meaning. The listener’s brain processes the information that it has heard, and this information is subject to the listener’s interpretation. What a person thinks they have heard can often be different from what the other person meant.
Listening is a very important aspect of communication and one we don’t spend nearly enough time learning about. A lot of time is spent teaching our children to read and write but not much time is spent teaching the skill of listening. Effective listening is essential for effective communication.
To hear what another person is really saying means you need to listen effectively.
5 simple steps for you and your children to become effective listeners:
1. Clear your internal space:
- Yours – deal with any internal thoughts that may distract you so you can listen fully. This may involve acknowledging those thoughts and putting them aside, promising yourself you will come back to them later.
- Theirs – If you want your child to listen to you, make sure they don’t have other things on in their minds. Ask them if there is anything, they want to talk about before you expect them to listen to you.
2. Clear your external space from distraction.
- Turn off phones, computers, or anything else that may ding.
- Check in with your child, are they expecting interruptions or is anything they would like to deal with before you talk. For example, perhaps there is a text message they want to answer first to get the distraction out of the way.
- Listen with all the senses.
- Research shows that 85% of what we communicate is non-verbal. To listen effectively we need to pay attention to all the senses, what you are seeing as well as hearing.
- What are you doing with your body to demonstrate that you are listening? Are you making eye contact? Is you posture open? Are you nodding or displaying any other actions that would indicate you are listening?
3. Be Mindful
- Be fully in the moment you are in.
- Combine steps 1, 2 and 3: There is no internal or external distraction because you are fully focused on the ‘now’. You’re paying attention to what you are ‘hearing’.
4. Check in with the person listening. Is their interpretation correct?
- Are they getting the meaning you intended? If they are misunderstanding you, make it your responsibility. Change the way you are communicating so they understand it the way you intended. In Neuro linguistic Programming (NLP), we embrace the belief “The meaning of my communication is the response I get.”
5. Silence – Three seconds is all I am talking about.
- When another person is speaking to you, allow three seconds between when they finish speaking and you start. This allows the other person to hear what was said and have any after thoughts. It is likely they will go deeper and think of more to add to what they have just said. This is when the magic happens. This is when there are “A-ha” moments.
- In these three seconds, you can reflect on what they said and think about what you want to say (it is amazing how much you can think about in three seconds). When you know you have three seconds it enables you to fully engage with what they are saying without thinking about what you are going to say next while they are talking
- THIS IS A VERY POWERFUL STEP! Our children are growing up in a world where there is very rarely silence. So many people go to sleep with the radio or TV on because they need the noise. To have moments of silence feels uncomfortable only because it is new. Once it is not new anymore, it can feel normal so it is important to give it a go and stick with it.
Sibling rivalry is a frustrating experience for all involved, the parents, the siblings that are arguing as well as the siblings sitting on the sidelines. By using the simple steps from the Turning Sibling Rivalry into something constructive series, your children will be able to identify their true goal when they argue and how to achieve their goals through positive behavior and focusing on problem solving. They will have gained the skills to communicate what they really want by expressing and owning their feelings as well as really listening to other person.