This is tip 4 in my series on the art of listening. If you’re new to the concept of listening time, check out my introductory post here, and find out how it can help your parenting.
Imagine your toddler suddenly chucks their dinner on the floor. You might feel like you want to shout and scream. Perhaps you manage to hold it in and keep your rage to yourself while you clean up the mess, or perhaps you lose it and end up screaming at them.
Or a friend cancels an arrangement to meet at the last minute which makes you let down and disappointed. In this case you probably will text back a polite ”no problem’ while your thoughts may be saying something quite different.
Our culture is not very accepting of feelings. Ever since we were kids we were expected to hold our feelings in and not make a fuss. This can make the emotional baggage we carry very heavy indeed. And often it’s the smallest, most vulnerable people in our lives that end up being around when our feelings spill over.
Listening time offers a chance to have free rein to say exactly what we think, and feel. And if we have a regular listening partnership in our lives we’re far less likely to reach boiling point.
When you are listening to your partner encourage them to say exactly what they think. If you notice them holding back, then let them know their big feelings are welcome. Offer suggestions, like yelling into a pillow or punching it. Give your partner gentle reminders not to censor themselves, and that you will unconditionally support them whatever they say. Act as a contradiction to those times in the past where your partners feelings were not welcome. Let them know this is a safe space where expressing anger and rage is welcome.
Do the same in your own listening time. Say the first thoughts that jump into your head rather than the polite edited thoughts that come second. Be honest and you’ll also help your partner to feel safe to be honest in their time. The more you unconditionally support each other, the more your listening partnership will grow and develop into a safe space to lighten the load of your unexpressed thoughts.
Would you like regular tips to help you develop your listening skills? Sign up to follow my blog at the top right hand corner of this page. If you missed the previous tips click on the links below Tip 1, Tip 2, Tip 3
And if you’d like more in-depth help learning the skills of listening then check out Hand in Hand Parenting’s online self-study course, Building A Listening Partnership.