Parenthood moves SO quickly, right? One minute you’re cradling a tiny bundle of joy, and the next you’re chasing a little independent human here, there, and everywhere. The toddler phase is widely recognized as one of the toughest periods of parenthood, and for good reason. Our little ones become more mobile than ever before, eager to touch, eat and experience everything in sight! They’re often so distracted by the world around them that listening becomes the least of their priorities…
With this in mind, I’ve been thinking recently about what toddlers can teach us about the power of active listening in our own lives. Whether it’s in our personal relationships or the business bonds we’re building, I truly believe that effective communication is the ultimate key to success.
Toddlers: The Experts of Not-So-Active Listening
As a parent of a little peanut, also known as a toddler, I’m well aware of the trials and tribulations that arise when trying to get them to listen. Teaching them to take in your instructions and follow them can be challenging, especially when they don’t yet understand the concepts of consequence or personal responsibility. It is hard, but once your little one starts to actively listen – even if they only acknowledge your instructions with a response – life becomes a whole lot easier.
When it comes to interacting with adults, I’ve realized we have to apply the exact same mindset. There’s a HUGE difference between hearing something and actively listening to it.
Active listening is all about:
❖ Paying attention and showing the person that you’re engaged
❖ Withholding judgment and approaching conversations with an open mind
❖ Reflecting on the information given and allowing it to inform your responses
❖ Clarifying any details you’re unsure of to build a deeper understanding
❖ Summarizing the information heard to confirm understanding
❖ Sharing personal experiences that relate to what is being said
Why Effective Communication Is the Key to Success
Active listening is a big part of effectively communicating, whether you’re negotiating with a new client, feeding back to a mentee, or navigating your own personal relationships. All humans are different, and we all have completely different perspectives on the world around us. Good communication helps to get everyone on the same page, understanding each other on a deeper level, and providing the information required for everyone to succeed.
The Ultimate Communication Checklist
✔ Watch Your Speed
Talking too fast can hinder how easily the other person can understand you while talking too slow can cause them to become quickly disengaged. Try recording yourself on your phone to get a handle on how fast you’re talking, and make adjustments accordingly based on your results.
✔ Watch Your Tone
The tone of voice you choose to use can completely change the way your message comes across. For example, if you make a sarcastic comment without the sarcastic tone needed to pull it off, you could cause offense and alienate the person you’re speaking to. Try and alter your tone to suit the situation you’re dealing with.
✔ Watch Your Gestures
We’ve all been in a situation with someone who makes so many hand gestures while talking that we can’t focus on what they’re saying. If this sounds like you, it’s probably time to get your gestures in check. Videoing yourself speaking could help with this – review your footage and rein in any gestures that don’t enhance the content of your speech.
✔ Slow Down + Pause
When you’re excited, anxious, or nervous, it’s easy to get ahead of yourself and start speaking as fast as possible to get to your conclusion. The problem is, that this can hinder your own performance when it comes to communication, and you’re likely to miss the important stuff. Next time you’re conversing or presenting, make sure to take a moment to pause in between sentences and keep track of your speed.
Communication is so important to every aspect of life, whether you’re running a business, navigating a relationship, or raising a little peanut! If raising a toddler has taught me one thing, it’s that active listening has the power to transform the way humans interact.