Practicing Active Listening in Your Conversations with Your Parents
May 26, 2019
Janelle Thomas MSN, RN
In today’s contemporary technology-obsessed culture, it is not uncommon for people to lose the skills that allow them to interact properly and effectively in person. Most people are much more accustomed to interacting over the phone, through text messages, or on social media platforms, or to utilizing these technologies while interacting in person. While many people think that this type of technology has boosted people’s social abilities, many studies have actually shown that they thwart many people’s ability to engage in personal conversations.
For those who grew up with this type of technology, multitasking with phones, computers, and other devices is normal in how they handle their interactions on a daily basis. In some situations, however, it can have a negative impact on their relationships. Within your elder care journey, this may mean disconnecting with your parents, missing important opportunities to discuss their needs with them, and even diminishing their quality of life.
Practicing active listening in your conversations with your parents is about taking your attention from all distractions and focusing it all on your aging loved ones and what they are saying to you. Using these techniques improves your connection, boosts your relationship, encourages your parents to be open and honest with you, and ensures you get and relay all important information in your conversations.
How to Practice Active Listening in Your Conversations with Your Parents
Use these tips, and share them with your parent’s caregiver so she can use them as well, to practice active listening in your conversations with your parents:
Look at them. Start the engagement in the conversation by looking directly at your parents as they are speaking to you. Making eye contact shows that your attention is completely on them and that you are not thinking about anything else while you are talking with them.
Be engaged, but relaxed. Being too stiff while having a conversation can make the other person feel anxious or on edge. Pay attention and present, but look away and blink in a natural pattern, and give body language that shows you are at ease, so your parents are also relaxed.
Listen before responding. This may seem like a commonsense concept, but many people do not listen all the way through to what someone is saying to them before responding, even if they do not respond verbally. Make a conscious effort to listen to everything that your parents have to say before you have an emotional response or start coming up with what you are going to say. This lets you fully process everything and get the total meaning of what they are trying to say to you.
Reply. Even if you are having a conversation that is primarily your parents telling you something, make sure that you stay engaged in the conversation and show your interest by replying regularly. Make comments or sounds to indicate you are listening and processing, nod, react, and give input at appropriate places to encourage your parents to continue. Likewise, if you are doing most of the talking, give your parents plenty of opportunities to contribute.
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