For many parents, it’s difficult to help their child learn to express his/her feelings. Sometimes, parents or spouses don’t know how to express their own feelings to each other, which creates a great wall of frustration and disappointments. Healthy and honest communication takes skill and great patience. I hope that the following guidelines of Reflective Listening will assist you in communicating more effectively and begin sharing feelings with one another.
- Be respectful of the other’s feelings:
Listen quietly and attentively. Put your agenda on hold! Don’t judge or try to come up with a solution. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, but it does mean you are respectful of their opinion. Your goal is to listen and understand the other person.
- Give good non-verbal signals:
Pay attention to your body language. If this is a child speaking to you, you may want to go at their eye level (on your knees or sitting down). Maintain good eye contact and show that you are paying attention by nodding your head occasionally. Sometimes it helps to verbally say, “yes” or “mmm” etc.
- Briefly reflect what you heard:
Here is where it gets tricky. This skill takes practice and time to master. Reflective listening requires for you to summarize what you heard. You don’t have to use the exact words the person is saying (just capture the meaning), which includes their feelings and thoughts.
If it’s a child, you may need to help them label their feelings (Feeling Chart). Children tend to exaggerate their feelings and situations. It’s important that as a parent, you remain calm, in order to help your child. Don’t ever tell your child that they are wrong or they are exaggerating. With time, as you help them label their feelings they will begin to learn to see the situation more realistically. You many need to use simple and short statements to label feelings and describe the situation. It’s okay if you don’t get it right the first time. You will have keep trying until your child feels you got it.
Here are some examples of reflective listening:
Young Child Example
- “You feel sad (feeling) because you couldn’t go to the mall with Mommy (situation). Is that right?”
Older Child Example
- “You seem to be feeling disappointed (feeling) or perhaps a little embarrassed (feeling) because of what others will think or say about you (meaning) after you fell during cheer practice (situation).
- “You feel frustrated (feeling) because I didn’t call you to let you know I was going to be late for dinner (situation). Is that right?”
- “You seem to be feeling sad (feeling) after I called you “stupid” (situation) because you think it’s disrespectful and degrading (meaning). Is there more?
- Come to a conclusion (if possible)
If you are dealing with an adult, you may need to come to an agreement to the disagreement. For example, “So, what you need from me is to call you when I’m running late, so that you can do something else besides wait around for me?” Is that right?
If it’s a child, you may need to help them find a solution. Sometimes, children just need you to hear them. Regardless, teach your child that they have choices. You can say, “What do you think you can do about this situation?” “What else could you have said or done when Tommy hit you?” Brainstorm with your child for possible choices and encourage them to try them. If that doesn’t work, then try something different.
Communication can sometimes be very difficult, but with patience and perseverance, you can learn to have a deeper and more intimate relationship with those you love. I hope the above information is useful to you and others. As you begin to practice these guidelines, may the grace and knowledge of our Lord guide and help you.
Rest in His Word: Matthew 11:15
“Whoever has ears, let them hear.” (NIV)
- Have I been hearing the Lord lately? Have I given Him my undivided attention?
- How can I apply the way I listen to God to listening to others (children, spouse, parents, etc.)?
Click here for similar topics:
- Helping Children Express their Feelings
- How’s Your Fuse? Understanding Anger
- 6 Tips for Dealing with Anger Outbursts
- The Link Between Thoughts and Feelings
- 10 Tips for Dealing with a Child’s Demanding Behaviors
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