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To listen you must be silent…

Tuesday November 2, 2021 comments

To listen you must be silent…

I heard this on a conference call attended by business coaches today. The two words are anagrams of each other (meaning they’re spelled with the same letters but create different words). LISTEN rearranged is SILENT.

How many of us are actually good at being silent? Silence is REALLY hard for a lot of us.

In sales, experts tell you that the first person to speak will lose the negotiation.

But in relationships, I believe the first person to speak wins – especially if the person speaking is a teen or tween.

One of the most common phrases I hear from teens is ‘My parents don’t listen to me.’ They don’t feel heard – and if they don’t feel heard, they won’t feel understood.

Think about the last time you had a conversation with someone you love, talking about a problem they were facing. Did you jump in and say ‘You should do blah, blah, blah’? Or did you give them the space to work out their thoughts? Did you grill them for answers, hovering until they spoke? Or did you ask a question and count to 30 to let them process?

Now, think back to when you were teaching your young adult to ride a bike. You’d stand behind them, holding the seat. Balancing for them. Catching first in this direction, then in that direction. As they gained some momentum, you’d have to catch less frequently. And eventually, you could let go – and they’d be fine until they realized that you’d let go!

But when it comes to helping them navigate challenges as young adults, we don’t tend to offer quite as much space – we don’t let go of the bike seat. When we’re talking about emotional development, giving them SILENCE is the way to give them SPACE. Ask a question and count to 30. If they haven’t started talking, count to 30 again. Flip through the channels on the TV. Go get a glass of water. Create a sudden interest in the pattern of the weave in your jeans.

Then, when they answer you, DON’T RESPOND WITH A QUESTION. Instead, reframe/rephrase what they told you. ‘Okay, can I repeat what I understood you to say?’ or ‘So, what I think I’m hearing is….’ Or ‘Do you mean to say this?’ And then count to 30 again.

Try it out!