If you haven’t already, complete the “Could listening change your life?” quiz and check back here once you have your results.
Simply learning how to listen effectively, will dramatically improve your experience as a Stepmom.
The benefits of practicing active listening are:
1. Leverage conflict to increase connection.
Active Listening is the only way to transform conflict into connection. The healing process begins when one of you feels heard and understood.
2. Replace resentment with empathy
Every time someone judges you, they’re revealing an area where they feel shame. The rare woman who is truly comfortable with her body, doesn’t give your body or looks attention. When we feel shame, we compare ourself to others and attempt to fault in them. To make ourselves feel better. When you recognize the other person is suffering, and that it’s not about you, you’ll develop empathy for them.
3. Increase your influence with members of your family
When trying to influence someone, research shows listening is more effective than talking (Journal of Research in Personality, Daniel Ames of Columbia University).
Here are 5 ways to become a better listener:
1. Lead with curiosity
Ask thoughtful questions to truly understand their perspective. When you’re not asking questions, use your body language to show your listening. Nod your head, lean in, acknowledge with “I see”
2. Shoulder to shoulder may be better than face to face.
For kids, especially, face to face conversations can be uncomfortable. They may be more willing to share a vulnerability when you’re doing a shoulder to shoulder activity; such as cooking or driving.
3. Your role is to make them feel understood. Not to fix their problems.
Most of us know what we need to do to fix a problem. And when we don’t, we still need to feel understood before going into fix it mode.
4. Validate their feelings
Put yourself in their shoes to imagine how they might be feeling. Offer a label for how they’re feeling: “That sounds frustrating”.
When you think you understand a key point, reiterate it back to them: “You’re mad, because you feel caught in the middle between me and the kids?”
5. Be patient. Allow for silence.
If they’re struggling to find the words, give them the time to do it. Resist the urge to speak for them.
These conversations may or may not require a follow up to resolve the issue. John Gottman’s research shows 69% of problems in marriage are perpetual, and my guess is that could also apply to most problems within stepfamilies. The source of you unhappiness is not the problem, it’s the story you’re telling yourself about the problem.
How nice would it be if knowledge of how to listen was enough to make you a good listener.
To turn your knowledge into action, consider my program SMIT: Stepmom In Training. It’s a complete toolkit for Stepmoms.