Watch and Listen

Community Respect Project

It is Very Important to Listen with Your Eyes

As an “imperfect parent” I learned an important lesson about listening while interacting with our daughter Kalli.

When in middle school, Kalli began telling me about what had happened that day. When she initiated the after- noon conversation I was sitting in my favorite chair… reading the newspaper. I was more interested in a sports column than listening to Kalli, so I employed a multi-tasking listening mode. (I kept reading, said a bunch of “um-hmm’s”) and proceeded to tick off my daughter. Kalli’s comment was, “Dad, you aren’t listening to me.”

I let her know that I was listening and proved it by telling her exactly what she had told me and then told her, “I was listening … I just quoted you.” As you might guess, that further frustrated  her.  Kalli’s  next comment was something like, “You are not really listening to me… you did not even look up at me.” The conversation ended.  I kept on reading but was badly in need of learning a major listening lesson.

eyeThe lesson: Listen with your EYES. Look into the eyes of the person speaking to you. Show them respect by giving them your full attention. Your eyes express interest because you are interested or are not interested in what is being said. (Note: some cultures find eye contact to be offensive-thus we need to respond with wisdom, sensitivity and respect.)

Multi-task listening for the most part is more about hearing than about listening. Being heard is one thing. Having someone genuinely listen to us is sizably different. We value people who listen to us.

There are some exceptions to the multi-tasking listening rule. A conversation when driving (windshield time) requires an extra commandment: WATCH THE ROAD and LISTEN lest you enter the ditch or hit someone.

The physical side of listening (hearing via our ears and listening with our eyes) offers added insights for meaningful conversations.

Listening with our MIND means we actively seek to understand what the speaker means, says and does not say. MIND listening requires thinking with the listener AND expecting to hear something worthwhile.

“Dad, you are not really listening to me. You did not even look up at me.” Look into the eyes of the person speaking to you.

Listening with our MOUTH prompts us to ask good questions, to seek clarification and to gain additional thoughts from the one we are listening to. Listening with our MOUTH is not about getting my say, nor is it “now it is my turn to speak” or giving my opinion. Healthy conversation normally leads to the listener being asked to share their thoughts. Not all people we listen to are emotionally or physically healthy and thus are not interested in hearing what you, the listener, has to say.

BODY or BUTT listening and or response may not be what you think. BODY or BUTT listening means I lean forward towards the person talking to

  1. The body language (position and response) can be positive, engaging and affirming.

Listening with your HEART is the desire to hear the listener’s heart… what are they really saying, what do they want to communicate, what is going on inside? HEART listening connects people at a much deeper level.

HEART listening requires diligent effort. Perhaps a better term would be “WHOLE PERSON listening.”

Our daughter Kalli was 100% correct when she said, “Dad, you are not listening to me.” My ears heard what she said and allowed me to repeat her thoughts. However, my eyes and body language conveyed that I indeed did not listen to her. What a valuable lesson.

A bonus lesson: Sometimes people in a conversation can look us directly in the eye, are leaning forward  towards us when we speak, can repeat what we say, say “hmm” at the right times and still be thinking about their supper plans or a conversation at work.

Their mind is mostly miles away. These individuals are quite good at multi-tasking listening. I know this to be true because it often “takes one to know one”… you know what I mean?

Wendell Amstutz, MA

Wendell Amstutz, MA

CEO | Author / Speaker | amstutz@ncommunityrc.org | 507-254-1265

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