Are You Really Listening?

“Mom! Are you listening?” When your children, spouse, friends, coworkers talk to you, are you really listening?

In these days of constant access to screen time, we tend to have conversations while we simultaneously surf the web, check status updates, read email etc. and only half listen to the other person. You are physically right next to the person, but mentally in another place.

Or maybe you set aside your phone/computer, but you formulate a response in your mind. You think about what you want to say as soon as the person stops talking. Again, your mind isn’t paying attention because your brain is only concerned with what you will say next.

Too often I look at my phone during conversations with others. Or I cook, or finish a project, and don't look at the other person. I am trying hard to change mostly because I feel it is rude. Last month, our son walked in the door with a pair of boots in his hand. I put my phone down, and looked at him as he told me how he got the boots. He then went on to tell me two more stories of things that happened during the day. Three stories out of our 18 year old son in ten minutes is a record. It happened because I put my phone down and looked at him.

Why should we fully listen to others? Focused attention shows respect and states you care about them. One of the best things we can do for our children is let them know we care and demonstrate their importance.

Relationships built on respect and caring flourish. People who feel respected and cared for develop positive self-worth. All of this combined proves the value we place on them as a person. Saying we care is one thing, demonstrating it is another.

People open up and express feelings when they feel valued; open and honest communication results. In today’s world, the ability to establish a loving relationship with your child is crucial. Finally, when we respect and value others, they respect and value us.

I find that listening just to listen, and not worry about formulating a response, allows me to enjoy the conversation and the person talking. Also, you never know where a conversation might go. You can learn more with your mind open to listening.

How can we improve our listening skills?

Look at the Person

Look at the person when they speak to you. It is amazing how this changes the conversation. It really heightens the level of engagement. It also lets the other person know you are invested in them and what they say. They may be apt to tell you more, and the conversation becomes more meaningful.

Listen to Learn

When I listen to learn, I stop worrying about what I want to say. I focus on every word the person says and try to internalize it. My brain focuses on the message. As I grow older, I find more ways to learn from others. Listening to learn is especially helpful at work.


After the person stops talking, repeat back to them what you heard. Ask for confirmation that you understand their message. Give them the chance to clarify if you missed something important. When the conversation involves a request, repeat their request. Now ask your questions or give advice as appropriate. If they told you a story, respond positively and end the conversation on a good note.

Practicing these techniques takes effort, but brings great reward. What tips can you add?

Image: MorgueFile