When someone says they want better communication with a child or grandchild, they shouldn’t just jump in and start communicating. The first thing they need to do—and do well—is listen. Active listening is so important.
Here are eight great ideas to keep in mind:
- Face the child squarely. This posture says, “I’m available to you; I choose to be with you.”
- Adopt an open posture. Crossed arms and legs say, “I’m not interested.” An open posture shows that you’re open to him and what he has to say.
- Put yourself on the child’s level. Kneel, squat down, lay across his bed, lean toward him. This communicates, “I want to know more about you.”
- Maintain good eye contact. Have you ever talked to someone whose eyes seem to be looking at everything in the room but you? How did that make you feel? That’s not something you want your child or grandchild to experience with you.
- Stay relaxed as you listen. If you fidget nervously as your granddaughter is talking, she’ll think you’d rather be somewhere else. That’s counterproductive.
- Watch the child carefully. Learn to read his nonverbal behavior: posture, body movements, and gestures. Notice frowns, smiles, raised brows, and twisted lips. Listen to voice quality and pitch, emphasis, pauses, and inflections. The way in which your grandchild says something can tell you more than what he is actually saying.
- Actively give your child nonverbal feedback. Nod. Smile. Raise your eyebrows. Look surprised. These small signals mean more than you realize. They’ll encourage your grandchild to open up even more and let you into his life.
- The last step to listening is … speaking. But, before you give your response, restate in your own words what he has told you. That proves you were listening. And it also gives him the opportunity to say, “Yes, that’s it exactly,” or “No, what I really mean is this …”
Through it all, remember that the goal of communication is understanding.
I’ve talked to too many people who tell me that the adults in their lives never cared about them or what they had to say. They felt—and still feel—let down years later.
Listening isn’t easy. But, it’s worth every bit of effort.