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How To Make Connections with Active Listening

    Active Listening is an important skill set for students. It improves their understanding and retention of the material they are learning, so as you practice this skill with your teen, they’ll be doing better at making connections and better in their school work. It is the art of staying focused and giving the speaker your attention, showing interest, and providing feedback while they are talking.

    All in all, active Listening will help you improve your communication and understanding with your friend when building a connection. It continues to build trust and rapport, like the other Connect with C A B L E communication skills we are learning. 

    Teaching Active Listening to Teens

    As with any of our communication skills, we want to start by role modeling. Make sure you practice Active Listening Skills when you play with your Conversation Game Decks or at the family meal when no one is distracted.

    We are going to go over the three important conversation habits when practicing Active Listening. These include paying attention, showing interest and providing feedback, and paraphrasing to ensure understanding.

    Paying Attention:

    Paying attention enables the listener to understand while making a new connection. Listening to music, a video, or practicing a new trick on your skateboard while talking to a new friend guarantees you will miss some of what is said. This is disrespectful and can make the other half of the party feel disrespected and unimportant.

    To teach this important part of Active Listening, give your teen your full attention and ask for their attention in return. Remove distractions, media devices, other speakers, and music.

    Create non-confrontational situations where active listening will benefit your teen. Start small.

    • Call a family meeting for five minutes. The topic should be non-controversial. Maybe plan a taste testing of your favorite cinnamon rolls and get a poll on which ones to include and why this is important. What characteristics do people care about, health or taste? What do they think?
    • Plan the family movie night planning can also be a good topic. What food should there be, and how will you determine the movie?
    • Anytime something needs to be assembled in your home, do it with your teen. Offer to read (or be read to) the instructions. Ask questions as you go.
    • Read the book that your teen is reading/has read. Discuss the book with them. Ask lots of questions.

    Ask your teen to focus whenever you are playing The Conversation Game.

    And if your child is being tutored or coached, this is not only an important time for your teen to be focused, but it is also a time to observe their stills. My sister takes Karate Lessons, and Active Listening is an essential skill they focus on in her dojo. Any coaching or tutoring session is a great time to practice Active Listening.

    Showing Interest and Providing Feedback.

    Acting like you are interested encourages people to keep talking. Enabling you to use your curiosity skills to find your common ground.

    One way to convey Active listening and show interest is to use your Body Language to show interest and give feedback. Nodding, Smiling, and other nonverbal cues show you are engaged. Show your appreciation for what the speaker has said with gratitude and positive reinforcement. 

    Verbal Cues that show Interest

    As Active Listener, we are focusing on keeping the speaker talking. Us these verbal cues to keep the conversation going without interrupting.

    • Huh?
      • This sound lets the listener know you are listening and are surprised or intrigued by what they have said.
    • Mm-hmmm
      • A great sound that does not interrupt but provides audio confirmation that you agree with their statement.
    • Grunt
      • A well-placed grunt can express surprise, sympathy, or, if expressed sharply, an acknowledgment of the speaker’s suffering, work, and even pain.
    • Oh wow! Yeah? No way! 
      • Short exclaimers provide audio feedback without interrupting the flow of the speaker.
    nonverbal Cues that show Interest

    To make sure not to interrupt the flow of the speaker, you can use nonverbal ways to show you are listening.

    • Eye Contact
    • Mirroring their facial expressions
      • Using appropriate facial expressions can show understanding and empathy and that you share the person’s emotions.
    • A Smile
      • A smile is a great way to show that you are happy to be with them. This encourages the speaker to keep talking, giving you more opportunities to get to know the person and make a connection. Be careful and ensure you are listening, smiling can cause problems if the story is sad.
    • Nodding
      • Nodding slightly shows agreement, understanding and empathy. It is one of the easier ways to keep people engaged and let them know you are listening. Nodding is especially helpful in encouraging shy people or letting new people know you are open and friendly toward their ideas. 
    • Leaning in
      • This nonverbal cue depends on space. You have to give people personal space, especially in the United States. But if you have space and can lean in, you show the listener that you are interested and engaged.
    Teaching Showing Interest and Providing Feedback

    These cues, verbal and non verbal are best taught in a very physical way.

    Again modeling the behavior, you are teaching is always my number one recommendation.

    Role playing is also helpful here. Practicing interviews or hard conversations that need to happen with teachers. My high school used to have a policy that you had to come in and present the grade you thought you earned, with data to support that grade. This terrified me. My mom and I always praticed these conversations before I had to go in. As much as I am glad the school doesn’t require this anymore, I think it is a lost learning opportunity for incoming Freshmen.

    Peaple watching. In a restaruant, at a train station, in an airport, look around and play a game. Guess what people are talking about, who likes each other, who is on a bad date. Do this quietly and respectfully and learn a lot by observing how people act. After you play this game, use these observations when you role play to make improvements.

    Spending time with relatives can be a joy, but sometimes the repetitive stories can be boring, this may be a time to point out how showing interest looks, and when watching a cousin how it really doens’t look.

    There are games that will also help. Pictionary has as many nods and hand signals as charades games and is less intimidating. Scategories, or the phone game Heads Up. These are all great ways to practice showing interest with your teen.

    Paraphrasing to Ensure Understanding. 

    Paraphrasing is essential while connecting because it shows that you understand the speaker. It avoids misunderstandings and helps clarify their view. Finally, it demonstrates respect for their perspective. 

    I learned how to paraphrase in my humanities classes. Our teacher gave us feedback every paper we wrote. The students would then write a short essay on that feedback to make sure we understood the feedback. It was a fantastic lesson, and it made you try not to get things wrong twice because it was also time-consuming. 

    Teachign Paraphrasing

    To teach paraphrasing, demonstrate the skillset during your after-school conversations. Ask for feedback on your understanding.

    After an event or a get-together, encourage your child to paraphrase what they heard. It will be interesting if you heard different things. This will enable you to discuss how our life experiences cause us to interpret what we hear differently. You can explain why paraphrasing is a vital skill in helping prevent misunderstandings. 

    You can also learn or teach a new skill. Take a crafting class or watch a how-to video together, and ask your child to help you by explaining the material. Always role-model this skill during your after-school talks. 

    Also, ask your teen to paraphrase you, “did that make sense, can you tell me what you heard, I want to know if it made sense. ” are great openers to hear your words paraphrased.

    After being asked for four to six weeks, these responses should start to become habits. So change your tactic a little. Ask if they have questions or thoughts. If the child doesn’t paraphrase, then ask for the reiteration. As time passes, you will be asking the second question less and less. A few more weeks will pass. Once you seldom ask for the child to reiterate, stop asking questions. Instead, pause after you speak. If, after a minute, your teen is quiet, ask if they have questions or thoughts. 

    Because your teen has been speaking for over ten years, learning new habits will not happen overnight. But as you focus on your Active Listening, they will learn these new habits.

    Connect with C A B L E

    The fourth skill set from the mnemonic is Active Listening. Connecting with C A B L E. Find out more about the five conversation skills every teen should master.

    Our Next Skill (and last of the five) is Eye contact. Eye contact can help build connections by conveying interest, attention, and engagement during conversations. It helps to establish trust, makes the other person feel seen and heard, and encourages them to open up. Additionally, maintaining eye contact can help convey confidence and sincerity.