When he was sixteen, my son told me that he could not imagine any job being right for him. He expressed feeling hopeless about his future. MY son? Impossible! I am the most optimistic person on the planet, at least I think I am. Yet, there he was, stuck in a quagmire of indecision and hopelessness. Heartbroken, I immediately wanted to reassure him. Help him see the bright side of things. However, that just seemed to make things worse. So, I had to listen. It was very hard for me to listen because I wanted to tell him how to solve his problems! You see, I am a compulsive fixer. I showed patience and restraint, and I truly listened, without thinking about what I would say next or deciding on solutions for his problems.
Many people listen with thoughts of what they will say next, rather than being in the moment and truly hearing what the other person has to say. Many people think listening is only an act of one’s ears. Many people think you can multitask while listening. However, these do not help you truly hear what your teen is trying to say.
Here are some tips on quality, effective listening:
- Put phones on “Do Not Disturb”! Phones present numerous distractions during conversations.
- Using “listening body language.” Sit if your teen is sitting. Lean forward, showing interest. If culturally appropriate, maintain eye contact. Keep your arms uncrossed.
- Ask questions!
What? Ask questions while trying to listen? YES! You can use questions to let your teen know that you are listening, and you will often get more helpful information from them through your questions. Use questions to check your understanding and questions for clarification. You can get information with questions like “What makes you say that?”, “Can you give me an example?”, “What do you think?” and “What evidence of that do you have?” Asking questions is an essential part of quality listening.
When I listen to my students, I learn about their strengths and interests. My son liked using his hands. He enjoyed taking things apart and putting them back together. Listening to him was a part of a long journey into adulthood and a career in auto mechanics.
Listen and question. Question and listen. You could be delighted with the results!
Do you have a career exploration story to share? I would love to hear from you.