Respectful Listening

Listen to me.

How many times a day do we say that?

How many times do you feel like you are NOT being listened to?

I'm a mom.  I feel like 99% of the time, I'm not listened to.  It's frustrating.  It's annoying.  And I get majorly pissed off about it at times.  Then I explode.  Then there's a BIG mess.  Which eventually gets resolved and life goes on in my house.  Until it happens again.

Why does no one listen to me?  Why does NO ONE EVER listen to me?!?!?!

That's an overstatement.  It's a BIG overstatement.  And there's a flip side to it; why do I (yes, ME) not listen.

I'm over 50 years old and I'm STILL trying to learn how to be a respectful listener.  It's NOT easy.  I'll probably never get it down completely.  But I need to keep trying; I think we ALL need to keep trying.

Listening.  It sounds so easy.  It's NOT.  Not if we are truly listening.

When we practice respectful listening, we are opening our minds.  We are allowing someone else to speak without interruption.  This is KEY and I'll admit it's the hardest thing for me to do.  I am guilty of interruption.  If interrupting someone was a crime, I'd be doing a life sentence with no chance for parole!

Respectful listening doesn't mean that we are agreeing with the person speaking, but we ARE giving them the opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions fully and completely.  And, of course WITHOUT interruption.  It requires us to suspend our own agenda and focus on something else that may or may not agree with what we think.  We need to be mature enough to allow others to express themselves and provide a safe space to do just that.

Respectful listening also requires us to digest what is said.  When the other person (or persons) is done speaking, it means that we don't immediately pounce.  We don't immediately discount what has been said (especially if we DON'T agree with it) and throw out our own idea.  Respectful listening takes time, thought and consideration.  After all, we cannot expect anyone to respectfully listen to us, if we do not offer the same courtesy to them.

As I said previously, this is particularly difficult for me.  I'm a mom with an independent teen and an opinionated husband and extended family.  With life's stresses, it's too easy for me to run out of patience and shut down.  But easy isn't the answer and easy doesn't break the cycle of endless frustration and anger.

I've come to believe that respectful listening is KEY to good communication.  That respectful listening, though challenging, will make my life (and by extension my family's life) less stressful and peaceful.  Who couldn't use a little less stress and more peace?

So right now, as of this moment, I've resolved to be a more respectful listener.  That doesn't mean I won't jump in when I shouldn't.  It doesn't mean that I won't make snap judgments when I shouldn't.  It DOES mean that I am making a conscious decision to change the way I listen.  When I find myself interrupting, to reign myself in and give the other person the respect that they deserve.  

Like any habit it's going to be difficult to start (I'm still struggling with the no foul language during Lent, but I can happily say that I AM making progress.)  However, I know the work is going to be worth it.  Furthermore, I hope to lead by this example and that those around me will also participate in respectful listening.  

Like that drop of water in the pond, who knows how far out those ripples might reach.  Who knows who else might give respectful listening a try?  Maybe it's you?  (And if it, PLEASE let me know how it works for you!)


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