How many times have you found yourself around a child that seems to have an abundance of things to ask or say? A question is asked, and the answer just prompts another question; or an extensive narrative about any topic seems to go on without end. And how many times have you found yourself providing an answer or acknowledgement steeped in brevity? “Why do cats meow?” “Because that’s what cats do…” Or “mmhm, yup, ok…” in response to their protracted dialogue regarding why Johnny always seem to get the ball first – while you check on your important emails or text messages, or make sure your dish on the stove does not boil over. Everyone’s been there, for whatever reason, at some point in these interactions with children.
But listening is an art. There are countless courses and public speakers and books, all of which define and discuss the art of listening. Take for example, a typical sales training montage in which the salesperson does not really ‘listen’ to his or her client. The customer goes into a lengthy description of what they are looking for and why, and the salesperson jumps right in to showing them a particular product. Sure, there are times when this goes off without a hitch, the customer makes their purchase and everyone is happy. But more often than not, the pitch may not necessarily align with what the buyer is really after. Perhaps the store has certain merchandise that needs to be moved to make room for newer product or maybe there is better commission of some things as compared to others – whatever the case, the result of not really listening might end up being “You should buy this because….”, after which the client thanks you for your time and moves on. Such training exercises will frequently recommend the salesperson reiterate what their client just told them, which shows that they were actually listening. Simply by doing so, the salesperson becomes more aware of what that client’s real needs are. A more successful conclusion might be “Based on what you have told me, this looks like the product that would best fit your needs.”
When a child tells you about something or asks you a question, that exchange is important to them, or they would not engage in the process. They are not concerned about our busy day or our hectic schedule – they seek confirmation that they are being heard and understood. At The Learning Lodge, we truly listen. Every word a child says matters – it is important, to them and to us. When we genuinely listen, the child becomes more empowered to express themselves and interact with others, and this also creates the foundation for them to become good listeners in adulthood.