I can’t let the year go completely by without telling my favorite “listening” story! As many of you know, “listening better to my family” is one of my 2014 goals; and while I have been trying to do it, I have actually written very little about the subject on my blog.
But there is one experience in my life that I almost always think of when the subject of being a good listener comes up.
My dad is and always has been a great listener, which is something I have definitely appreciated. I try to be like him in this, but it doesn’t seem to come as naturally to me. Anyway, when I was a Freshman in High School I received a progress report stating that I had a D in Algebra and that if I continued like I was it could be an F by the time report cards went out. Well, you can imagine that my parents would not like this one bit, and my mom was pretty clear that she didn’t. After talking to me a bit about it and the importance of my grades in school, she said to me “Your dad will need to see this when he gets home. Do you want to show it to him, or would you rather that I do it?” I opted to show it to him myself, and when he came home I bravely gave him the paper explaining what it was about.
Well, my dad looked at the paper and simply said, “Why are you getting a D in Algebra?” I responded, “I don’t understand it! I see what the teacher does, and I try to do it, but it doesn’t make any sense to me!”
After hearing my answer, he responded that if I don’t know how to do something, that I should come and ask him for help and he would explain it to me. I did this once, then twice, and then all the time after. His help was really helpful and my grade went up from a D to a B by the time report cards came out. The pattern of his helping me continued all through High School, with any math and science that I found confusing (OK, just about all of it 🙂 ). And the positive effects extended beyond that because when I needed help from teachers in High School and later in College, I wasn’t afraid to ask.
He really didn’t have to spend a lot of time listening, but I’ve always remembered how the first words out of mouth were not ones of chastisement, but rather a question. He listened to my answer and offered a helpful solution. It made a big difference, not just in my grades but how I felt about myself in regards to my school work. And probably the most important thing was, that when I handed him the progress report I wasn’t very worried about his reaction, because this was the way he usually handled things.
When I watch people arguing (and unfortunately find myself doing it too) I often think about how much better it would be for all of us if we would ask questions and listen for the answer instead…just like my dad did. Many times, of course, it takes longer than what I described to truly understand someone, but I really do believe that it is worth the effort and the patience that it requires. Thanks, Dad for being such a great example!
When have you seen “listening” have a positive effect on a situation?