Developing the art of conversation and listening

“They don’t listen to me!”  This is a statement I hear over and over again from teen girls.  How do you develop the art of listening to a teen girl?  It’s different than how it was when they were younger.  Girls have a lot of words don’t they?  It’s one reason I have loaded “Spinvox” onto my voicemail so that when I receive a call from a girl, their voicemail is transcribed into text. That way I see all the words, and can piece the situation together.  Sometimes they don’t talk at all.  Sometimes they do that because they know the question you are going to ask them already. It’s a routine conversation…and they hate routine conversations. If we’re honest—we do too!  We can almost verbatim know the flow of this conversation because we’ve heard it before:  “How was school?”   teen: “It was okay”  Parent: “What did you do”  teen: “nothing really”  Parent: “What did you eat?”and I’m shutting this conversation down because it is already snoozing us all.  The parent was asking routine questions, seeing if all the necessities were covered.  The teen was just going through the motions…but what happens when you ask the right question and listen actively?  A conversation may be born!

My mother is the super-hero of active listening. She doesn’t understand why people go to her to talk to this day. She doesn’t understand why when I was in highschool, most of my girlfriends and I would end up where she was. One time that was when she was cleaning the bathroom. We all sat in the floor of the bathroom and talked with her while she cleaned. Why?  Because we knew she listened to us…really listened.  I never knew what she would ask next. It was a real conversation.  So here are some tips to throw those routine conversations out the door:

1. Remember things that they are working on and work those into conversations.  It shows you are observing and caring about their world.  Resist the urge to judge. Example: “Hey Abby, last week you said something about Carly quitting the cheerleading squad, how is she doing? ”  The response could be: She’s okay.  If so, ask how the dynamics of the squad are changing because she quit.

2.Ask questions to gain insight into the “ROOT”.   So you think Emily is being mean-girled at school?  That must be hard to be her friend with all that going on. How are you coping with that?  WHY do you think the girls are acting that way towards Emily? WHAT do you think you would do if you were her?

3.Create a place of conversation.  My mom was stationed at the kitchen table after dinner to read the newspaper or do a cross word puzzle. She was always on her feet but after dinner, this is where she was.  I knew her patterns. This is where I would hang to work on my homework. It wasn’t a place where forced conversation happened.  If I wanted to talk, she was there.

4. LISTEN.  Do more listening than talking.  There are 4 main reasons we listen

We listen to obtain information.
We listen to understand.
We listen for enjoyment.
We listen to learn.

People remember 25-50% of what we hear.  So when you spend your time with your daughter lecturing them for 10 minutes, they may only hear about 2 minutes of your speech before they tune you out.  However, they will take away much more if they feel listened to by you.  This is a LOUD way of telling them you love them and building that relationship.

This is just a start…other thoughts to share from parents or girls ministry leaders?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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