Whether you are a parent or a teacher, being involved in early childhood means working very closely with various adults and children. Sometimes people don’t see eye-to-eye on things and they find themselves in challenging conversations that require extra-strong interpersonal skills to manage the stressful situations.
Being in a conversation and listening sensitively while others speak is harder than it sounds. It’s hard because listening involves responding to the other person in a way that tells them you heard them. This is tricky because oftentimes people are forming their own retort while the other person is speaking; they are trying to prep for their turn in the conversation so they may miss some of the nuances of the other person’s point of view.
Emotional conversations always create “energy” and people can easily get defensive or protective about their point of view, to the detriment of the outcome. They become strident in the delivery of their opinion or request. Or they dig in their heels and prepare to insistently plead their case when an opening comes up in conversation. Whether we are talking to adults or children, one way to find common ground and engage in productive communication is through using Active Listening. When people feel legitimately heard, they are more inclined to find ways to compromise, to agree, or to productively work together on finding solutions.
Many people know this concept, they know what Active Listening means, but it is hard to use in the heat-of-the-moment. We need to remind ourselves to suppress the natural urge to interrupt the other person, to finish their sentence, or to chime in as soon as the speaker takes a breath of air. And, our body language is important; listening is not a passive activity. A good listener establishes eye contact and uses nonverbal signals like nodding to show her attention while the other person speaks.
Below are some key things to say before jumping in with your response.
First, ask for clarification:
- “Let me see if I understand your position. Are you saying that…?
- “What I hear you saying is……Is that right?”
- “Do you mean that……?”
- “Can you tell me more about….?”
- “Could you explain what you mean by….?”
Then, use Active Listening phrases that assure the other person that he/she is being heard:
- “It sounds like you want to….”
- “So, you feel very…..”
- “You’re having trouble with …… because …”
- “I understand. You wish people would….”
- “Yes, I get your frustration.”
- “Uh-huh, I do see how you would feel upset by that.”
- “I can definitely tell how annoyed you are about this issue.”
By Lisa Poelle