by Kenneth Justice
~”Kenneth, my boyfriend simply won’t listen to me, he just sits there zoned out in front of the television every night” ….that is what a young woman shared with me recently as we sat at the coffee shop.
Far and away the most common complaint I hear from people of all ages is that they feel like nobody is listening to them;
—) Teenagers who feel like their parents only preach at them and never listen
—) Employees who feel that their bosses don’t really listen to them
—) Men and women who feel that their significant others don’t listen to them
—) Teachers who feel that their students aren’t really listening to them
—) Students who feel that their teachers aren’t listening to them
Whether it was when I worked at the jail, the rehab clinic, or I’m sitting around at a café….everywhere I go people complain that the significant people in their lives are simply not listening to them. “Well he says he’s listening to me, but when he doesn’t take his eyes off of the f**king television I’d say he’s not really giving me much of his attention!” the young woman at the café said.
Strangely enough, when I was working at the rehab clinic I never went a week without hearing from clients who would complain to me about the other counselors; they felt the counselors weren’t really listening to them. Many of the clients felt that the counselors would spend more time ‘telling them what to do’ or ‘making them feel bad for ending up in a rehab clinic’…than truly listening to the client.
Awhile back I talked with a young man who was engaged to be married and was struggling with a sex addiction. The man wasn’t merely satisfied having sex with his finance; but was actively trying to sleep with a different woman every single night. The young man went to his minister to seek out help and explained to him the problem; the minister told him flatly; “sex outside of marriage is a sin, you need to stop engaging in it altogether” and left it at that. The young man felt dejected leaving the minister because he felt that he was still all on his own in trying to overcome his behavior; he told me that he felt the Minister didn’t really listen to his problems because “Once I told him that I’ve been having sex with different women the Pastor seemed to shut down and got all angry with me. He didn’t really listen to me much and just kept telling me that what I was doing was wrong….as if I didn’t know that already”
Here in Western Culture one of the most dire examples of a lack of listening is when it comes to parents and their children. When I was studying psychology in college we had an entire course that was focused on ‘teenage rebellion’. Yet as I studied through that course I couldn’t help but feel that much of the problem with teenage rebellion is connected to the parents; how many parents simply expect their young adult children to obey their rules unquestionably?
—) How many parents truly take the time to interact with their young adult children and listen to them?
—) How many parents spend more time listening to their young adult children then they do talking at them?
I’ve always been uncomfortable referring to that particular age group as ‘teenagers’ because of the negative connotations that so many people associate with the term. ‘Young adult’ seems to be more of an appropriate term in that it reminds us of what they truly are; young adults. Perhaps this is merely a semantical word game I’m playing, but I can’t tell you how many parents I’ve heard utter the awful phrase, “I’ve got a teenager who thinks they know-it-all” in the presence of their ‘teenager’. It seems as though; that is such a disparaging thing to say right in front of the face of your young adult children…..no?
A few years ago, before I ever began blogging myself, I began commenting on some well-known national blogs (authors who I still read daily). It used to frustrate me to no end that they would ignore so many of the comments on their blogs; I would become mad and think these bloggers ‘aren’t really listening to anyone!”
Obviously there are no ‘rules’ when it comes to blogging but when I made the decision to create my own website I told myself that I would try damn hard to really listen to my readers………because I feel that in listening it demonstrates to others that we ourselves are willing to learn and grow…..that we aren’t bullheaded; that we don’t know-it-all.
Isn’t that the issue between so many young adult children and their parents; when parents don’t demonstrate the ability to listen they are communicating to their children that ‘I’m a know-it-all and don’t need to listen to you’. Do the parents ‘know’ more than the children? Sure….but so what? Isn’t the quality of a great leader someone who is a great listener?
—) I think back to some of my favorite managers and bosses throughout my life and the quality that I see in all of them is the ability to listen.
—) My favorite professors in college were the ones who actually listened to the students and used the back-and-forth communication to better connect and teach
A leader can be a great orator…but if they aren’t a good listener than their followers can end up suffering……
And if you’ve been listening to me you know that its right about now that I usually start craving a cup of coffee,