Many people think that they can get rid of their feelings by suppressing them, forgetting them, or thinking about something else. Actually, people free themselves of trouble-some feelings when they are encouraged to express them openly. Active Listening fosters this kind of catharsis.
Just like in this Baby Blues comic, the daughter is expressing to her father that she wishes her hair were like her friends (Wren’s), but as she continues to explain what kind of hair she wishes to have, her Dad “Active Listens” and feeds back to her that his daughter wishes she had the hair she already has. Which then she exclaims, “Yeah…Exactly!”
It helps children to find out exactly what they are feeling. After they express their feelings, the feelings often seem to disappear almost like magic.
Active Listening helps children become less afraid of negative feelings. “Feelings are friendly” is an expression we use in our classes to help parents come to realize feelings are not “bad.” When a parent shows by Active Listening that he accepts a child’s feelings, the child is also helped to accept them. He learns from the parent’s response that feelings are friendly.
Active Listening promotes a relationship of warmth between parent and child. The experience of being heard and understood by another person is so satisfying that it invariably makes the sender feel warm toward the listener. Children, particularly, respond with loving ideas and feelings. Similar feelings are evoked within the listener—he begins to feel warmer and closer to the sender. When one listens empathically and accurately to another, he gets to understand that person, to appreciate his way of looking at the world—in a sense, he becomes that person during the period of putting himself in his shoes. Invariably, by allowing oneself to “get inside” the other person, one produces feelings of closeness, caring and love. To empathize with another is to see him as a separate person, yet be willing to join with him for a brief period in his journey through life. Such an act involves deep caring and love. Parent who learn empathic Active Listening discover a new kind of appreciation and respect, a deeper feeling of caring; in turn, the child responds to the parent with similar feelings.
Active Listening facilitates problem-solving by the child. We know that people do a better job of thinking a problem through and toward a solution when they can “talk it out” as opposed to merely thinking about it. Because Active Listening is so effective in facilitating talking, it helps a person in his search for solutions to his problems. Everybody had heard such expressions as “let me use you as a sounding board” or “I’d like to kick this problem around with you” or “maybe it would help me to talk it out with you.”
Active Listening influences the child to be more willing to listen to the parents’ thoughts and ideas. It is a universal experience that when someone will listen to one’s own point of view, it is then easier to listen to his. Children are more likely to open themselves up to receive their parents’ messages if their parents first hear them out. When parents complain that their kids don’t listen to them, it’s a good bet that the parents are not doing an effective job of listening to the kids.
Active Listening “keeps the ball with the child.” When parent respond to their kids’ problems b Active Listening, they will observe how often kids start thinking for themselves. A child will start to analyze his problem on his own, eventually arriving at some constructive solutions. Active Listening conveys trust, while messages of advice, logic, instruction, and the like convey distrust by taking over the problem-solving responsibility from the child. Active Listening is therefore one of the most effective ways of helping a child become more self-directing, self-responsible, and independent.*
*Active Listening excerpt from Dr. Thomas Gordon's P.E.T. Book