5 listening exercises
The experience of listening can be hugely connecting and rewarding. Sometimes it just happens. Most of the time, though, it takes a decision to be present and an internal process to create these moments.
Exercise 1. Deepen your trust in your children's wisdom and resilience, step out of the need to rescue them
I watched the documentary My Octopus Teacher a little while ago. It is a story about how one man went diving in the ocean every day for about a year and how he forged this beautiful relationship with an octopus.
I love the pace and the spaciousness of this film. I love the story. I love the respect and freedom in their relationship.
I noticed that in the weeks after watching this film, my thoughts kept drifting back to it. I began to wonder how it would apply to my relationships with my children.
Watching this film reminded me that each one of my children is as mysterious as the universe and just how much I don't know about them. It helped me to appreciate that there is no right or wrong way to connect. It helped me let go of some set ideas and expectations about a good connection or lack of it and appreciate how we connect at this moment.
What comes up for you as you read this? Where can you trust your children more to find their own way?
Exercise 2. Notice the stillness in the pauses between each breath
Do this exercise when you are on your own or invite your children to join in with you. Set a timer for 3 minutes and bring your attention to your breath. Notice how the air is coming in and flowing out. Notice the pauses in between each breath. Notice the stillness in these pauses and how much can happen in this stillness. This practice can help you quieten your mind and take more in of what your children are saying.
If you would like to deepen this practice, stay with the pauses between your breaths as you listen to this 9-minute guided relaxation.
Exercise 3. Breathe during the conversation
Slowing down the pace of the conversation can help you give your child more space to explore what is going on for them. So often, we know what we want to say to our children before they even finished speaking. Next time wait until they stop speaking, and instead of offering your perspective straight away, take a breath or two. Take in what they just said, see how it lands.
If you want to invite your children to share more, try the next exercise.
Exercise 4. Repeat what your child just said
Repeating what your child just said in almost the same words will help you both stay with your child's agenda, encourage them to explore and share a little more of what is going for them. It will help you to hold back from explaining your point of view or giving them advice.
Once you repeated what they just said, take a few breaths to give your child time to connect with what is going on for them. Here are a few examples of how it could sound:
The teacher asked you to put your book away before you finished the task.
You seemed quite excited about your first swimming lesson at home, and now you don't feel like joining in.
You are not sure if your time with daddy will be the same after his wedding.
Repeating what your child said will let them know that you are present, interested and listening and will prompt them to carry on thinking and talking about their experience.
Exercise 5. Encourage your child to share more by asking some open questions
I like starting with some super open questions, like:
Interesting, can you tell me more about it?
What was it like for you?
How do you feel about it?
Sometimes it feels right to ask more directing questions:
What do you find difficult about it?
What do you like about it?
How would you like it to be?
Even though these exercises are simple, I don't think they are easy. Slowing down, holding back your agenda, staying present with your child's experience requires a fair amount of discipline. Congratulate yourself and celebrate each moment you manage to stay listening. It is a practice that deepens over time.
If you would like some support implementing these ideas, book a free discovery call.