Gary's blog for couples and parents plus resources for individuals, leaders and churches.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sometimes We Need To Just Stop and Take Inventory

I was at a high school graduation ceremony a number of weeks ago when a light in the auditorium apparently overheated and exploded during the speaker's address. There was a large popping sound and it looked like a few little specks were floating down into the audience.  In the area where I was sitting most everyone's attention was diverted to the action overhead and was no longer listening to the speaker.

However, instead of stopping for a few moments and acknowledging that there might be a problem, the guest giving the address simply kept going. He didn't think that he may have lost his audience and apparently was unaware that many had tuned him out.

We as both spouses and parents can do the same thing at home.  We have something to say and we're going to say it no matter what is going on around or in those who are listening.  Sometimes they're not hearing us because of something else that has "exploded" in their world that day.  Other times they're distracted by things going on at that moment or our words may simply be unclear and they're not getting it.

The wise person stays attentive to whether the other person is connecting with them or not.  And yet too many of us just keep going anyway and take no notice of whether we're getting through. 

So what can we do to determine if we're getting anywhere with our comments?  First of all, stop and ask. If you're speaking to a child you might say, "OK, tell me what you think I've said so far."  Or if you're talking to a spouse something like, "Do you feel like this is making sense?" or "Do you have any thoughts about this so far?" would be more appropriate.

Second, observe the other person's reaction.  The face and body can give off a lot of signals that tell you whether you're being received well or not.  Of course, if they've fallen asleep it's pretty obvious!  However, most of the time the clues are a bit more subtle. Do they appear attentive, do you sense they're ready or willing to hear more?  Can you see some obvious distractions that have taken their attention away?

Third, think about how you're communicating.  Are you using a tone of voice that is pushing them away?  Are your words too complicated for a child or too detailed for the situation with an adult?  Do you need to slow down or change your position so that you're less intimidating?

Finally, be willing to stop and acknowledge what else is going on right then.  "Honey, I'm wondering if we're just too tired to finish this conversation right now"  or, "I've given you a lot to think about so let me hear what you're thinking," could be helpful comments that provide a needed pause.

Most of us talk too much and listen too little.  Maybe we can all have better and more effective monologues and conversations if we'll just check out what's going on in the audience a bit more carefully!
Gary Sinclair Writer | Speaker | Leader

Gary is currently a consultant, teacher, speaker and chaplain providing resources for families, leaders and churches.

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