What my 2 year old taught me about listening

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dubsI’m a fairly new Dad but can’t believe how quickly they grow!  My son is turning 2 at the end of this month and it’s amazing to see how he’s changed over the past few months, never mind the past 2 years!  Here’s one thing that snuck up on me and hit me straight over the head with a 2×4 though:  He has taught me a crap-ton about listening.

A few short months ago he could only babble, so it took us a bit to figure out what he wanted when he was asking for something.  He would point to the object or grab your hand and bring you over to the “dance floor” (also known as our kitchen) or he’d hurl something at your head to get your attention.

Those were the easy days.  You couldn’t understand him anyways, so all you had to do was say, “mmhmm,” or “oh really?” or the ever-popular, “Then what?”  It was great!  Just use one of those, randomize and repeat and you could have a full out conversation while you watch the your favourite sports team.  No effort, no need for concentration, just straight enjoyment.

Then he started to say a few words, then a few more, now he’s just trying to figure out how to put sentences together. Now if I’m not paying proper attention, I’m not sure what he’s saying and if he notices he’s bound to do something drastic to get my attention.  So here are a few things that he has taught me about what it means to listen:

  1. Nonverbal Matters: You can learn a lot about what someone is saying by paying close attention to their nonverbal’s.  What are their eyes telling you?  Are they full of passion and fire?  Are they looking down?  What are their hands telling you?  Their posture?  Upwards to 93% of communication is nonverbal, and I don’t know about you, but that’s significant enough to pay attention!
  2. Clear Distractions: Put down that phone, turn off the TV, clear whatever distraction is around you so that you can pay full attention to the conversation that’s happening right in front of you.  They are taking the time to tell you their point of view, the least you can do is give them the respect of paying attention.
  3. Be Curious: Simple right?  Get all curious up-in-there, show them your interest, ask (open-ended) questions to them, find out why they are telling you about this, find out what makes them tick, why is this something they are passionate about?  What about this is pissing them off?  Shift your judgement to curiosity.
  4. It’s the Little Things: Pay attention to the small details of the story.  Pick out little things that they are talking about.  With my son, you can get the story of what he’s saying by paying attention to key words and his body language.  The same can work for you when you’re talking to your partner, co-worker, boss or kids.  The story is in the details so don’t lose them.
  5. Practice Makes Perfect: There is no such thing as overnight success.  Yes, we’re talking about practice Iverson. The more you purposely practice your listening, the better you will get at it.  So what are you waiting for?


This post originally was written for Dadditudes

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