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BellaOnline's Adolescence Editor

The Secret to Heartfelt Listening

Listening is important at any age and in any circumstance. Being the parent of an adolescent is a true test of listening skills. Not only do you have to decipher their language, but you also have to reserve your judgment about what is important and how attention should be directed. I think that is the hardest part, trying not to impose your ideas about what is important and what is not important. Learning to listen with your heart as well as your ears will go a long way in helping to overcome those tendencies to judge.

Several years ago I was taught a heartfelt listening technique that I have used ever since. I have taught it to my children and my grandchild and remind them of it during stressful times. We have agreed that we should take our ten deep breaths using this technique and then discuss whatever issue is causing distress.

The first step is to agree to do it; then that decision is out of the way when things get tense or emotional. The next step is to take those deep breaths, to at least the count of 4, and then breathe out to the same count. Clear your mind of any thoughts and continue for several more breaths. Next focus on a positive memory and really remember it, how it felt with as many senses as you can. When you can feel the emotion of the memory, you have done it. For me, remembering a moment in nature really works to de-stress me and bring on that positive feeling. Continue to breath and hold the memory as long as possible. Once you have practiced this a few times, it should only take a minute or less to shift your physiology to this positive state. Even if you cannot get to positive, just the breathing will stop the flow of negative emotion and help you think better.

Now that you have prepared yourself, listen to what the other person has to say. All the while they are talking, continue to breathe fully and appreciate them for what they are offering you by their words. Once they have finished, offer back to them what you heard, being sure to tell them to correct anything you have misunderstood. This simple process can open up communication, decrease the need for non-stop talkers to talk, and help you maintain an optimal state of physiology. Try this the next time someone asks you to listen to them or if you are emotional and want to create a listening and learning state within yourself to understand those emotions. Practice it until you are good at it, and then teach it to your adolescent when they are in a listening mode; someday they will appreciate the favor.

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