are you not listening?

We’ve had some teenage drama going on in the house with my 15 year old stepdaughter. As a “bonus” mom (my early spin on my role in the hopes of avoiding the whole stepmonster thing) I may have the slight advantage of being the tiniest bit objective. It’s just a little, but in this case a little goes a long way.

In preparation for some of the difficult conversations that have come up, Bubby and I have practiced what he might say. Which has included a whole lot of not saying anything. Understandably, this is hard for him.

It reminds me how important and rare good listening skills are. Creating the space for feelings to be there, not trying to fix, belittle, or bring the focus back to us.

If you haven’t read How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk, it’s a must. It’s not just about talking to kids, but extra bonus if you have them.

If, like Bubby, you don’t have time to read a book, try the following during your next conversation:

1.  Do not respond. I mean, you can nod and make sounds that indicate that you’re paying attention, but don’t offer your opinion, your remedy, your side, your perspective. Get comfortable with silence.

Here’s what happens when I do this with my bonus daughter (BD) — she starts talking again, and then keeps talking, and tells me more than she planned on. I think she also feels less judged and more accepted.

2. Notice what you’re feeling in your body. Do your palms sweat? Is there a knot in your stomach? Do you feel scared, insecure, angry?

Any response we have comes through the lens of our own experience. When I listen to my BD talk about her challenges with her dad, the girls at school or drama with boys, my response is at least in some way colored by my own experiences with my parents, my high school days, my friends and heart breaks.

Once I remember that and feel the reaction in my body, I can offer a more appropriate comment when necessary. But it’s rarely necessary.

Imagine yourself with big, soft ears. Catch all of the dreams and fears and truths of the person sharing and hold them there — perhaps vulnerable or incomplete, perhaps joyful and trembling.

photo credit

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21 Responses to “are you not listening?”


  1. 1 Jenny September 22, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    I so needed that reminder today, thank you!

  2. 3 Sarah September 22, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    I just happened upon this today when looking for the class schedule. We’ve had a lot of eight-year-old boy drama at home this week and your entry was perfect (and so eloquently written). My wise neighbor reminded me that to encourage them to talk, my job was to listen – mostly with my mouth closed. They may say things that I don’t want to hear or don’t even think are true, but when I let them talk while I just keep my big soft ears open, their little hearts just pour right into them.
    xoxox

    • 4 blogasana September 23, 2011 at 4:42 am

      so true, sarah. i think that must be harder to hear as “the parent” — esp the “I don’t want to hear” ones!! glad you landed on the blog and thanks for the comment! xo

  3. 5 Jacqueline September 22, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I love that book. I think you really may be onto something… it isn’t just about kids. I may have to pick it up again.

    • 6 blogasana September 23, 2011 at 4:43 am

      jacqueline – i had forgotten about it too… when all this ‘listening’ stuff came up i dug up the book and was reminded how great it is. worth a re-read!

  4. 7 Kelley M September 23, 2011 at 12:56 am

    Pure loveliness. Needed this right now. XO

  5. 9 madyoga September 23, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Take out “daughter” and put in “friend” or “spouse” and this is so applicable to…everyone. Thank you.

  6. 11 Mandyk September 23, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    Love this post on how taking a step back gains new perspective. So true!

  7. 13 Mel September 23, 2011 at 4:51 pm

    Lovely and so applicable to all listening. Thank you (and your BD is lucky to have such a listener in her life!)

  8. 15 Kimberly September 23, 2011 at 5:30 pm

    Thank you for the book recommendation. By the way, there is a book called “Stepmonster – A New Look at Why Real Stepmothers Think, Feel and Act the Way We Do” … I have ordered it, but have not read it yet. Thank YOU for always being such a great listener to my step-mothering challenges.

  9. 17 Brittany September 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Really, really fantastic! Thanks, Michelle.

  10. 19 Liz Gutierrez September 25, 2011 at 5:38 am

    you would be a great child therapist!
    thanks for nurturing all the “young” parts in all of us.


  1. 1 Friday Best… « Just a Titch Trackback on September 23, 2011 at 8:06 am
  2. 2 Soft Ears | Carbzine Paintball Trackback on September 29, 2011 at 7:10 pm

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