Everybody, Listen Up!


Everybody, Listen Up!


A few weeks ago my family decided to go on an outing. As we prepared to head out the door, everybody had their own plan and tried to convince everyone else to jump on board with their idea. It was a little chaotic! My husband commented that we have all leaders and no followers in our tribe. Everyone wants to talk and no one wants to listen. It can be frustrating at times!


Lately I’ve been thinking about some strategies to help us out. Perhaps they will help your family too:


Give Your Full Attention:

Misunderstandings and conflict can happen when we’re not giving someone our full attention. When you’re the person talking, it feels disrespectful when the other person isn’t giving actively listening. Let’s remember what that feels like and turn it into the motivation to be fully present when others are speaking. (Yes, that means we need to put our phones or tablets down. We’re not effectively listening when our eyes are focused elsewhere.)


If you can’t give someone your undivided attention, ask for a few more minutes until you can. This is difficult with young children, but it’s at least worth a try!


Seek to Understand, Then be Understood

As a parent, I fail at this pretty miserably at times. I’m trying so hard to get my point across, that I sometimes forget to consider my child’s feelings and desire to be heard. When we first seek to understand, the other person feels valued. We built trust by actively caring about the other person, even when we disagree with them. When the other person feels heard, they’ll be more open to hearing and accepting what we have to say.


Of course there are exceptions to this rule, like when children are doing something dangerous. (Parental discretion and common sense are always advised.)


For more information on this principle, check out Steven Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.


Stop Interrupting

I’ve noticed that in my family we have a hard time with interrupting. Whenever conflict arises, we’re all quick to try and get in both the first and last words. (Sigh.) I’m trying to be more intentional about this. So during a recent conflict with my seven-year old, I told her, “I’m going to talk first and you just listen. When I finish, then you will talk and I will listen.” It seemed to work pretty well. (Although, in light of my previous point, I think that next time I’ll try letting her talk first.)


Another tip that’s helpful with children is the talking stick. I first learned about this way back when I was in Girl Scouts. Find a stick or whatever object your family decides (a spoon, beanbag, stuffed animal, pillow, etc.). The only person allowed to talk is the one with the talking stick. What that person is finished, the stick will go to the next person and it will go around until everyone has had a chance to speak.


Practice Active Listening

Listen to what your family member says and then repeat it back. Start with, “What I hear you saying is this________.” This communicates that you were actively listening and allows the other person to clarify if you’ve misunderstood.


This little exercise is extremely helpful in clearing up misunderstandings, especially when you’re having a male to female conversation. It allows each person to fully explain their position and give more background behind their reasoning.



Put some of these steps into practice and let me know how it goes! I’ll be doing the same.

Andrea Fortenberry
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Andrea Fortenberry

Andrea lives near Phoenix, Arizona with her husband of 12 years and two children, ages eight and five. She writes and speaks on relationships, family and faith. Her recent work includes publication in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives. She has a journalism degree from Pepperdine University and is a graduate of She Speaks, a program of Proverbs 31 Ministries.

Andrea enjoys wandering around bookstores and meeting friends for coffee, although she’s not a coffee drinker herself. (She prefers a good chai latte instead.) She loves traveling, has had her passport since age two, and has been to nearly 20 countries.

Connect with Andrea on her blog, www.andreafortenberry.com or at www.facebook.com/andreabfortenberry.
Andrea Fortenberry
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