They don’t listen to me!

Young people complain that their parents/carers don’t listen to them. What’s new! That’s been happening forever, hasn’t it?

Kids can feel unheard when their parents/carers don’t agree with them. Of course listening does not equal agreeing. But it doesn’t equal a lot of other things either.

Way back last century a man named Thomas Gordon came up with a list of communication roadblocks, which has since been dubbed ‘the dirty dozen’ – ways of responding we often use quite automatically when someone talks to us, and all of which can have the effect of blocking further communication because we appear to the other person to have stopped listening and started doing something else.

Here are six of them:
Ordering, directing, commanding
Persuading with logic, arguing, lecturing
Judging, criticising, disagreeing, blaming
Questioning, probing
Withdrawing, distracting, humouring, changing the subject
Giving advice, making suggestions, providing solutions

If there’s already a communication impasse (see last Counsellor’s Corner) then these responses will only add to the blockage.

But what could be wrong with giving advice or suggestions, for example? Well, if your child doesn’t think you have really heard their concerns, they won’t be inclined to listen to your opinion, no matter how well-founded. And it’s often better if people arrive at their own solutions than have them given to them, or imposed on them.

Our intentions might be good, but our methods could be ineffective. We might be trying to be helpful, to share our wisdom, to steer them in the right direction. There’s a time to do all of that of course, but sometimes – maybe oftentimes – the first thing to do is to hear what’s said, and to let the other person know you’ve heard them.

After the speaker knows that you ‘get them’, then the space opens up for mutual exploration of what’s happening, and then the options for any needed action become much clearer.
Martin Graham
School Counsellor

Information about school counselling is at {base_url}/learning-teaching