Have you ever pondered over the fact how well you listen? Chances are, you might not have ever given it a thought. Listening as a skill, is developed right from the time we are born. We never really pay attention to developing our listening skills in particular, because we assume it'll happen automatically. But this is not correct. While growing up, a lot of factors act as barriers to effective listening, like:
- A lot of us listen selectively, which means we only listen to what we want or what seems relevant to us.
- A lot of us also listen to respond. We don't listen to the other person properly and fully and just interrupt to put across our own point. We don't listen to understand but to reply.
- A lot of us have pre-conceived notions about the speaker or the content. This greatly affects the proper transmission of message.
These barriers keep us from understanding people and their perspectives. A good listener is the one who listens beyond what is just being said. Listening skills also require the use of emotional intelligence to understand both; verbal communication (for which we use our ears) and non- verbal communication (for which we use our eyes). For instance- If someone says "he's fine", but is teary eyed, there is more to that communication than what met your ears. To decipher it correctly it takes years of practice. Therefore, training children to be good listeners right from an early age, becomes the key. It helps focus not just in the classroom, but also in the long run at their workplace and in relationships.
So what does it take to make children good listeners?
- Encourage to talk less and listen more. There's a reason why we have one tongue and two ears and not the other way round.
- Teach them about empathy. It helps in understanding the speaker's point of view much better.
- Patience is another virtue worth being practiced. Easier said than done with kids, i know! To start with, encouraging them to listen out full sentences without interrupting, would be a good idea.
- Impartiality is another maker of a good listener. Kids are generally very unbiased and impartial. But they learn what they see and hear. So it becomes significant to put our own biases at bay when interacting with or around them.
- Understanding tone is also an important point to consider. Distinguishing happy from sad, lenient from firm, angry from sad, helps a great deal in comprehending what the other person is trying to communicate.
- Looking at the big picture is also something worth making your child learn. When someone talks, we often pay more attention to their words than the essence of the message that they're trying to convey. We should make children understand that focusing on the "take away" holds more importance.
- Decoding non-verbal communication helps us understand the message that is not reaching our ears. Children are more observant and you'll often find them questioning you when you're lost. It means they're watching you and are understanding it when you are unusually quiet. So this is something that instead of teaching, we should learn from them.
- Lastly- Practicing what you preach is perhaps most important of all. Parents are the first teachers of any child. Children imitate us all the time because they idolize us. It hence becomes of absolute paramount importance to follow all of the above and focus on becoming good listeners ourselves. Over and above the aforementioned, kicking out distractions like phones, tabs, laptops,TVs etc also helps in focusing on what everyone around (especially our children) are saying.
Ok, enough said. But how do you do it? Here are a few exercises you can do with your children-
- Family reflection time before going to bed- This is something that my preschooler's teacher advised us to do. She asked all of us to sit together for fifteen minutes before going to bed and reflect on how did our day go. It not just helps in knowing what each one of us did the whole day but also develops a habit of listening to each family member together. Additionally, it will boost the children's self confidence and make them feel emotionally strong because they'll always feel what they're saying is being heard out and given importance.
- Listen and Draw a Story- Tell your child a story and ask them to draw their favorite scene from the story. This will encourage them to pay attention to details, ask more questions and make them look forward to listen to you more.
- Listening Games- Learning becomes easy when its made fun. Games really help in developing good listening skills. Blindfold Walk is one such game where you can blindfold the child and ask her to follow instructions to reach a goal (like- take 2 steps forward, turn left..). Another fun game is Guess What It Is, where you give the children 10 clues to guess the name of an animal or person or place or any other thing. Listening carefully is the key in both the games. Fun, isn't it?
If listening becomes a way of life, we can keep at bay most of the complications and challenges that life throws at us. And as they say- there's so much you can learn if you learn to listen.