Shut up and listen

Dear Readers,

While in graduate school, I was a part of a passionate group of students, which was intent on its purpose. There was an assignment, however, that became the Achilles heel for some members of the group; it was called the Graduate Expository Test. This was an expository essay, which required students to select a topic, place forth the evidence and expand upon it, in a clear and concise manner.

To successfully complete a master’s degree, one had to pass this test, within three attempts. Unfortunately, many students were unsuccessful. Investigations revealed that some students who were terminated, did not effectively define concise. Their thoughts meandered all around the path, missing the premise of the selected topic.

Last Saturday, I was out on a family exploration, when I received a call from a relative inquiring my whereabouts. When I informed her of my status, she proceeded to scold me about what, how and when I was doing. I placed her on speaker and muted the phone; I did not ask for, neither was I interested in this diatribe, so I continued my way. She was ruining my moment.

As parents, sometimes, we do this with our children, especially adolescents. They say something to us, and before we reframe and process the content, we fly into our self-righteous robes and commence the lecture series; when in truth, we should Shut up and listen!! I know this sounds harsh, but it is truth.

Often, we are ready to suggest and advise, when all that is required is a compassionate, listening ear. In many instances, this is where we “lose” our children, as they can only ‘hear’ so much and lock out the rest. The information we are giving is undoubtedly important, but perhaps not needed (at least not now).

Active listening (listening to the message and the message within the message, without judging or interrupting), is a skill that requires a lot of practice. It is a great communication device that is seldom employed. Part of the justification for underutilization of active listening, could be tied to our need to always have the answers, or to always be correct; it is practiced behavior and difficult to shake.

It requires forgoing our views and opinions and honing into what is being expressed. This skill shows that we are totally present for the person who is disclosing. It conveys real interest and care.

So, the next time someone is telling us something and we feel the nudging to correct, lecture, chastise, or lend our expertise, before we do this, we should ask the individual, what it is he/she requires of us, in the discourse. Most people know exactly what they want and will tell us, if we ask them. Imagine flunking graduate school for verbosity!
Dr. Pam

POINT TO PONDER: Listen more. Speak less.

• Askdoctorpam is a column that appears in this journal every week. Your letters and comments are encouraged. You may email your letters or comments to Askdoctorpam, or write to Askdoctorpam P.O. Box F43736. Dr. Pam is a Clinical Psychologist trained in all areas of mental health.

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