Honey, we need to talk

"So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it." -Jiddu Krishnamurti

We may be listening... but are we actually HEARING?

Too often, we may find ourselves speaking to someone who is so busy thinking about what they are going to say next that they don't hear what's being said. Have our lives become so mentally cluttered that we don't have time to really hear? Or do we hear the words but miss the meaning because we are thinking about something else, or we assume we already know what that person is trying to tell us? How could we know what they haven't finished saying?

Let's pay attention to something our child, spouse or friend finds important to share with us. It's not difficult to set aside a few moments of undivided attention to open our mind and heart, take sincere interest, be fully present and HEAR what they have to say.

Body language and facial expression can add another dimension to what is being said. Becoming sort of "connected" with the speaker allows us to get a peek of what's behind their words, where truths reside. Then not only do you hear the words, but also whether or not they are sincerely spoken.

Not now... later... got more important things... not enough time.... too tired... too busy.... tv show is on...

If not now, WHEN???

I can remember times, as a teenager about a million years ago, when I wanted so badly to be heard...not told what I was supposed to think, but be given the opportunity to express my own unique views and feel valued as an individual. If parents aren't willing to listen to their kids, someone else will be...and not necessarily with good intentions. So I went out of my way to encourage my own kids to talk.

Listening can be one of the most valuable skills a person can learn. If face-to-face conversation is awkward at first, try turning off the television and play a board game together. It's amazing how much connecting and sharing can happen with your opponent while jumping checkers or sinking battleships... (beware of the Hungry Hippos, though, no human voice can be heard over those)

Cooking together is another good activity to open up communication. Then there's eating together, or fishing, walking, a ride in the car, working on art projects, weeding the garden, gazing at the stars, and a list that could go on and on of things that could be done together while encouraging discussion about anything and everything or nothing in particular.

So turn off your computer now and go challenge your kid (or spouse or parent or whomever) to a conversation-provoking game of scrabble...or build a birdhouse together... plan a trip... bake a batch of snickerdoodles... conduct a science experiment... plant a tree...go bug catching... But most importantly, LISTEN. You may learn a whole lot that you didn't know before.

What? Huh? Oh, sorry honey... I wasn't listening...

©2011, Mary Lou St. Lucas

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Mary Lou St. Lucas is a former stay-at-home mom who has participated in custody and divorce-related support groups. She often speaks out through impassioned letters to local newspapers regarding issues affecting quality of life for children and families. She has experienced divorce, including the heartbreaking decision to give up daily contact with her two sons for what she believed was their best interest at that time, as well as the societal stigma attached to being a non-custodial mother. She emphasizes the importance of kids having BOTH parents in their lives on a regular basis, even if the parents cannot or will not be married anymore. She hopes other parents will see that there may be alternatives to the standard custody arrangements, depending on the individual situation. She writes from her perspective of today instead of revisiting and dwelling on the painful emotions of her past. She strives to live a full life in spite of a recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia, and believes a sense of humor is mandatory. mlstuff.blogspot.com/2007/08/male-bashing-t-shirts.html or E-Mail.

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