Listening is the key to a good relationship, says DeeDee Moore of More Than Grand. That means listen more than you talk. At our July GaGa Sisterhood meeting, DeeDee shared some barriers to listening and techniques for good listening.
To earn love and respect, it’s important to listen. When we listen, we show that we care and respect the person who’s speaking.
Why Listening Is Important
When you become a grandparent, you’re not just taking on a new role, you’re building new relationships – even with your own children. You’ve gone from being the parent of an adult child to being the parent of a parent and that requires some different ways of interacting.
Listening is vital in making those relationships work and navigating the new things we need to learn how to do. Listening is a crucial part of being able to learn. As we get older, we get set in our ways of thinking. When we say: I don’t understand why — that’s a perfect opportunity for us to learn.
If your adult child is parenting in a way that’s new to you, ask for information in a non-judgmental way. Be curious and interested in this new perspective. Ask for resources so you can understand. The older we get, the harder it becomes to be open to new ideas. Listening is the key to being able to grow and learn.
Listening signals respect for the people in our family. There’s nothing worse than not being listened to when you have something important to say.
It’s hard to listen to someone when you don’t agree or you have a difficult relationship with them. The more difficult the relationship, the more important it is to take the time to really listen so you can figure out how to improve that relationship.
10 Bad Listening Habits
Waiting for your turn to talk. This is not listening to the speaker but planning what you’re going to say.
Being distracted or daydreaming. It’s especially hard when you have a phone in your hand and you’re getting notifications. Your #1 priority should be to focus on the person speaking.
Judging the speaker or topic. It’s especially true if you don’t like the person because it creates a negative filter. If you can get past your judgment and get to know the person, you’ll learn to respect the person more and they’ll respect you. Sometimes a topic prevents us from listening. For example, your daughter-in-law insists on only buying organic food or something even bigger such as a grandchild who may be questioning their sexual orientation. If you don’t agree, you’re not going to listen well; you owe it to yourself and the other person to get past your judgment. If it’s a pattern with you, then your children and grandchildren will just stop talking to you because they’re not going to keep butting their heads up against that wall.
Making it about you. Let them tell their story. If your daughter is telling you how hard it is to get the baby to sleep, it’s not an opportunity for you to tell her how hard it was to get her to sleep. It’s an opportunity for you to understand what she’s feeling and needing, what you can do to help. You can’t do that if you’re sharing your own story.
Making assumptions or mind reading. One of the most common bad habits is to try and figure out what the person will say or help fill in the next word they’re struggling for. That’s disrespectful!
Giving advice because you know best. When you do this, you make the speaker feel like what they have to say isn’t valuable. If you keep “shoulding” them, it sends a message that you want to control the situation. We must show our children we respect them and that we are not in charge of the situation. Stop yourself before you “should” on them. Ask yourself: do I really want to be the one solving this? This one’s definitely a hard one not to put on your mom’s hat.
Agreeing just to stop the conversation. Just nod your head and say, yes, that’s great let’s go ahead and do that. That one will come back and bite you because it will show you’re being dishonest in your interactions. You’ll lose their respect and diminish them.
Comparing and evaluating. You can’t be a good listener if you’re evaluating everything from your own perspective which is limited because it’s our own. If you think, I never had that problem, it must be something he’s doing. We have to honor our child’s experience by listening to what he’s saying without comparing to how we might have done things.
Looking through the lens of your experience. Sometimes we focus on the speaker only if he agrees with our viewpoint, causing us to only hear the parts that acknowledge us. We miss things that way. We’ll miss vital information which allows us to connect with our children and grandchildren.
Getting into a debate. Less common – some people love a debate for sake of entertainment. When you debate, you don’t take in information — all you’re trying to do is counter the information.
What’s the answer to keeping these negative traits from overtaking our conversation?
8 Good Listening Skills
Active listening is a valuable technique. It’s more than just hearing words – it’s fully concentrating on what’s being said with your undivided attention on the speaker.
Show signs of listening. Make eye contact 60 – 70% of the time, lean toward the speaker, mirror their facial expressions, keep your arms uncrossed, and nod your head.
Be patient. Don’t fill gaps in conversation; let them find the word they’re searching for
Be non-judgmental. Be open, listen to words, don’t criticize even in your mind.
Don’t interrupt. The key to good listening is to wait and listen to whole thing.
Watch for nonverbal behavior. Watch the speaker for facial expressions and tone of voice.
Ask open-ended questions and ask for clarification. This shows your interest.
Reflect back on what is said. By paraphrasing, “so in other words what you’re saying is …” allows the speaker to elaborate.
By asking questions, you create engagement and the speaker will feel heard and feel valued. Being a good listener takes practice – sometimes just one behavior at a time and with one person at a time. Think about what your barriers are to good listening and be conscious of them the next time you’re in a conversation.
To be the person your grandchild comes to when they need to talk is an invaluable gift to the child, their parents, and to yourself. Strive to become a non-judgmental grandparent and you’ll be blessed with many wonderful hours of conversation and a close bond with your grandchild.