Start by Listening - Part 2

By: Dr. Neil Stafford Posted On Apr 16, 2017

In the last blog we discussed the value of listening. Starting with listening lets us know where the other person is at before we begin talking. This improves our ability to get our point across. If I know what the other person is thinking I can adjust my message to them. It's like a football game plan, or like planning a menu for dinner. My game plan is better if I know what the other team is going to try first. My menu makes more people happier if I know what the group is hungry for in the first place. By listening first we we can improve our problem solving with our child,  significant other,  coworker, or customer. We gain an advantage by knowing what the other person is thinking before we start.

Let's look at a real life example. A fellow psychologist related the following story about the power of listening first. My friend was working with a student who is in foster care. This student has some real positives working for him. Number one, there are several adults who care about him. He has foster parents, a social worker, a counselor, and his real mom. All of them are active, and working to help him out. 

The problem in this situation was with the social worker and the school team. The student was having some minor behavior problems at school. He was also telling the staff about being angry and sad a lot of the time. The staff told the foster parents about the problems, and worked with them to try and solve the problems at school. The social worker started calling my friend at least once a day asking about the student, and what was being done about the problems the foster parents were telling her about. My friend shared, and invited the social worker to the next team meeting. The student kept having behavior problems. The social worker kept calling, and started telling my friend what the school team should do. My friend told her they were working with the foster family. The social worker started acting angry, and calling more. 

At this point, my friend and I were at a meeting. She told me the story to this point. I asked what she thought the social worker wanted, and my friend wasn't sure. I guessed maybe she wanted to have some control. Maybe she wanted other people to listen to her. 

A couple of days later I saw my friend again, and asked how the meeting went. She said it went very well. My friend let the social worker start the meeting. The social worker was allowed to share her concerns and ideas. The team listened, and then they shared their ideas. The team was able to come up with a solid plan. My friend thought the social worker left the meeting happy. By starting with listening the team heard what were the social workers concerns. They were able to use her ideas in creating their plan. Now the social worker was on their side because she felt included and heard. 

We gain an advantage by listening first. Sometimes we can gain an ally by listening first. There is nothing to lose, but having the first word. Try it out next time you get into a conversation. Listen first. You might be surprised at how it turns out. 

TAGS: Listening, Communication, Clinical Child Psychology, Couples Therapy/Relationship Issues, Childhood Behavior Problems, Communication Problems, Problem solving
About the Author
Dr. Stafford is a clinical psychologist with 11 years experience. His primary experience is with children and families in private practice, and 10 years in the Avondale Elementary School District. Dr. Stafford has earned certification in school psychology, and is the training director for an internship program for school psychologist. Beyond these activities, Dr. Stafford works with adults in his private practice on a broad range of issues including depression and anxiety. He also has interests in the integration of faith and psychology as well as the development of the individual through interpersonal neurobiology.

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