Friday, March 6, 2009


This is hard. I have been working through reading The Road Less Traveled for quite a few months now. I am trying to take in little bits at a time, because that is all I can handle. I read a lot of fluffier books in between, but I am still working on it and I still find great insight through my reading and notes. So here's the latest . . .

How many of us really truly listen?

To our children, our spouses, our friends, our coworkers?

In a section which properly describes how giving our attention to someone or something is work and how that shows our love for it or them, we come to the main form of attention giving, listening.

True listening is hard work. It takes mental focus and physical energy, not to mention emotional energy as well. I can't quite pinpoint where I lost my ability to pay attention, but it was a number of years ago, after I got married, but beyond that I am not sure when it happened. I know why, I just simply stopped trying. There were a myriad of reasons for this, but I have felt it for a long time. Perhaps you are familiar with the feeling, perhaps not. For example, when I sit down to read something that is not a fluffy novel, I can read the same paragraph six times and not remember what it was about. I was reading my friend's blog just the other day where he launched into an explanation of how to count in binary on your fingers. I honestly felt my eyes glaze over and skip to the next readable paragraph. I couldn't even make myself try to understand it, which is sad, but I think it happens to lots of people, especially in my position (and many who are not in my position). Anyway, listening is hard and I have gotten very, very, very lazy about it.

Dr. Peck gave a general scale of types of listening, focusing on young children, which really hit home for me since that is who I am surrounded by 24/7. You may be able to relate to this.

Type 1 - "Children should be seen, not heard" wherein you basically ignore them and they are not allowed to speak in your presence.

Type 2 - They (the children) provide background noise, like elevator music. They are talking, but you are not listening to a word they are saying.

Type 3 - Pretend listening, ohh and ahh, at the right moments, my personal favorites are "okay" and "really?" and especially "we'll see"

Type 4 - Selective listening, like scanning a paragraph for the main point, you listen to try and hear the important stuff, without suffering through all the meaningless extra babble.

Type 5 - True listening, you stop, put down whatever you are doing, focus and listening to every word the child says, honestly attempting to understand what they are saying with complete attention.

Any of that sound familiar? I do mostly type 4, a good deal of type 3, attempts at type 2 usually turn into type 1 (we call it mommy putting the silence on them) and only on rare occasions, type 5. What is really interesting is that I started analyzing how I was listening to them after I read that. Mark would come to me and rattle on about a Mario Kart race on his ds, and after he left, and sometimes while he was talking I was thinking to myself, I am not really listening to him, this is more of a type 3 kind of listening. It is changing the way I think about my interactions with my kids. It will change the way I interact with my husband, I just haven't seen him since last Saturday, but he gets home tonight!! Yea!!

After I read this I started to worry, I am great at worrying, less great at doing something about my worrying issue. Thankfully Peck went to say that he nor anyone else who is sane would expect a parent to type 5 listen all the time. It is best to have a balance of all types. The key though is in the balancing and use of all types of listening. Like everything else worth doing it is easier said than done. But it is important that they do get some of type 5. We all have a need to be truly heard and understood. True listening tells our children that we think they are worth listening to, which means that we think they are worth something. On top of that feeling of your esteem, they take from your listening their value as a person. A fascinating cycle begins here.

You truly listen to your child.
They feel valued.
The more valuable they feel the more valuable things they say.
The more you listen the more you realize what valuable things they have to say.
You realize, or are reminded, what an amazing person you have.
The more you learn about your child, the better you can teach them.
Your child feels valued and amazing, so they become more willing to listen to and learn from you.
The more you teach them, the more they learn and the more amazing they become.
Then you truly listen more and the cycle repeats.

Naturally this applies to more than just children, probably just about anyone you interact with on a regular basis could benefit from being truly listened to. The question "Are you listening to me?" has a new meaning for me now. And like I keep telling my children, you have to be the first one, either to share, or to be a friend, or in this case to listen. We all need to be listened to, but maybe we need to learn to listen to others first. Once we are truly listening to them, our love and appreciation for them will grow and the cycle will begin. In fulfilling other's needs, our own will be fulfilled as well. I suppose that is the epitome of true love, Christ-like love. Putting others first. For me this seems like a way to start trying to be Christ like. This is a little thing that I think I can make a conscious effort to do that will have a great effect on my family and on myself.

So, Are YOU listening?