MARY KAY TURNER
January 22, 2015
Give a Precious but Inexpensive Gift for Christmas
Would you like to find a very valuable but inexpensive gift to give this year, maybe even a gift that “keeps on giving” in a positive way? This gift will help improve your communication with your family, friends, coworkers, and even strangers. The cost is not monetary, but it comes in your commitment to working to improve your daily interactions with other people, and it does take time. Of course, being respectful in speech and actions always enhances communication.
When we think of communication, we usually focus on getting our message across to other people. What is the definition of communication? “1. The imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs. 2. Means of connection between people.”
Using that definition, it is clear that listening is a very important part of communicating. In fact, for balanced communication, listening should be about half of the interaction, or even more than half if more than two people are involved. Paul Tillich, a U.S. theologian and philosopher, has said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” Listening respectfully to your spouse, children, parents, friends, and coworkers is a precious gift you can give them. You can learn important things by listening, even from people you think you know well.
Giving your time and attention to another person encourages that person to share ideas, opinions, and feelings with you. Watching their children grow, parents quickly learn that the exuberant questioning and sharing of the preschooler give way to a quieter older child, then often to a teenager who tends to communicate little with parents. It may be necessary to work harder to get some people to talk about their lives, goals, and dreams.
Parents may need to gently ask questions of older children to learn what is happening in their lives. Questions that can be answered with “yes”, “no” or a single word give only a little information. Asking “open-ended questions” invites the responder to say more about the subject. Some examples of these questions and statements are: “Tell me more about….”, “Can you please explain that more?” “That’s really interesting. I’d like to hear more about it.”
Other ways to encourage people to keep talking include gentle encouragement, by saying “Oh?” “Really?” or similar words that don’t interrupt. Reflecting is repeating as a question the last word or phrase of a statement, and this invites further input on the topic. Paraphrasing is restating in your own words what you heard a person say with “Are you saying…?” or “I heard you say….; is that correct?”
Consider giving the precious gift of listening, especially to family members. You can provide a positive model for your family, with everyone benefitting from better communication all year long. Show your family your love by listening to them, and listen to friends and coworkers, as well.
Mary Kay Turner is a teacher, who is a trainer, mediator, and board member for Mediation Services of Adams County (MSAC).