Are You Listening?

10 Jun

Are you really listening?

In one of our previous blogs we spoke about the power of praise and how effective it can be in encouraging positive behavior. Listening, despite being far more passive, can be equally as effective. If done right. If you’re really listening.

We like to share our stories. Our real life experiences. We all do. It’s a human trait. How we relate.  A friend has two daughters that live with their mother, from whom he had been separated from for 4 years. His relationship with their mother was quite acrimonious and his relationship with his two daughters strained. 

The younger daughter “Kay, who was 15 years old, would run hot and cold with Dad.  Charming and engaging sometimes, impatient and verbally abusive on other occasions.  Karma Kids got involved supporting Dad.  After being witness to her behaviour during phone conversations we asked, “when did it become OK for her to talk to you like that?”.  There was a background of this type of language used in the marriage. It was a behaviour Kay had observed and learned from her mother, and in the same way, the acceptance of it, from her Dad.

Setting Boundaries:

Our first step was to establish boundaries around acceptable behaviour.  Dad communicated that he would not engage when abusive language was used.  Whenever Kay swore over the phone Dad simply said, “your language is unacceptable. I am not continuing this conversation.” In time, with persistence, when Dad employed this tactic, Kay modified her behavior. She called back on occasion, sulked for days on others, and generally the way she communicated with and behaved towards her Dad gradually improved.

Family Support & Observation:

The Karma Kids Team also had the opportunity to observe Dad and Kay at an extended family gathering.  Kay presented as very keen to engage with her Dad. She was very talkative. She offered Dad some food, invited him to taste it. He politely said “no thanks”.

He didn’t pick up on her disappointment. Whether her reaction was rational or not (his action was innocent – not intended to offend) she appeared dejected by his failure to accept her offering. We suggested that the offering was in fact another way Kay was reaching out, trying to increase the engagement with him (I was silently screaming “just eat the bloody thing”!) Thankfully (luckily) Kay’s reaction passed and she was again soon very talkative. On occasion Dad got distracted, looking away, asking someone if there were any napkins!  We observed the slight sense of disappointment on Kay’s face.

Feedback & Coaching:

At the earliest appropriate opportunity The Karma Kids coaching with Dad was about giving Kay his absolutely undivided attention. Listening without distraction or interruption.  Listening fully and completely with eyes focused solely and directly on her.  Think missile lock!

We all know the feeling of talking while someone looks at us and knowing that they are hearing every word we say but not listening at all. People who have low/fragile self-esteem need to know they are important, that they are being listened to, not just heard, that they are a not only a priority but the priority.

Dad was responsive – he adopted the missile lock listening strategy. This meant he gave her his undivided attention, listened to her, which lead to actively engaging with what she was saying and offering.

Listening, really listening:

Later he commented that “for goodness sake that girl could talk underwater”.  They were connecting, she was sharing. She felt valued, he felt included. She seemed happier, to enjoy her time with her Dad and he confirmed that the quality and tone of their communication and relationship was improving.