No Words Required: The Listening Puzzle

I admit it. This seems crazy and a bit of an exaggeration:

Researchers say that the average parent spends less than 30 seconds per day deeply listening to their children. Grandparents are somewhat better, but that statistic has got to send a shock wave of disbelief through all of us.

Deep listening, the type of listening I’m talking about, means dropping everything and focusing your audio receptors on them with no intention of dispensing advice or finishing-their-thoughts listening. Can you think of a better way to say “I believe in you,” “Your thoughts and ideas are good,” “You’re smart, and you’re valuable” than to stop everything going on around you and in your own head, get down on their level, and practice one of the most difficult types of listening in this distraction-saturated society: deep, focused listening?

“Wait a minute, Steve. You have no idea how busy I am. I can’t just drop everything at any time to deeply listen to my children.” I understand it’s not always an option, but when your children are aching for some deep listening, take some time to stop and consider, “Do I REALLY have to get this done right this minute?” When you inevitably realize that very few things must be completed at that moment, you can disconnect from your to-do list and soak in the sparkle in their eyes that celebrates your undivided attention. And perhaps the greatest gift of all in this totally-possible scenario: they feel safe, whole and valuable.

A friend of mine recently shared a very creative yet simple deep-listening technique that he and his wife had tried out on their 13-year-old and 16-year-old boys. On the day after Christmas when everyone was home and unattached to obligations, mom and dad pulled out a huge puzzle, that intimidating 1,000 piece puzzle that leers at you from the top of your closet. They slowly and silently began separating pieces and looking for the edges. In 10 minutes, the 13-year old came over and began looking for pieces. In another 10 minutes, the 16-year old began his search. Five hours later, no one had left the table, and the puzzle was beautiful.

Neither of the parents had said more than ten words the entire time, no advice, no hidden lectures, just a brain-stimulating activity that inspired the boys to share almost everything about their lives. My friend said he had never enjoyed his family more, and he was pretty sure the boys were both walking taller after that simple, but rejuvenating family time.

Steven Vannoy

Steven Vannoy

Mr.Vannoy is a published author and the executive director of The 10 Greatest Gifts Project.

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