Being a good listener isn’t just about shutting up and not interrupting – it’s about really taking in what someone is telling you.
I thought the correct response was to descend into parent cliche mode, saying things such as, “Don’t you speak to me like that” and, “Who do you think you’re talking to?” These weren’t phrases I normally used, but I’ve since learned that when stressed, we often revert to what we’ve heard before; what we know. Then I remembered what I’d learned that week, talking to a child psychotherapist: listen to what you can’t hear. What might her actions be telling me? When I zoned in on those, I realised that school hadn’t turned her into a brat (my fear) but that she was worried and anxious.
So instead of berating her, I said: “It sounds as if you’ve had a really hard day. Would you like a cuddle?” “Yes, Mummy,” she said, suddenly soft and less furious as she burst into tears. If you don’t listen to children, even when they are being “difficult”, the negative feelings they experience won’t go away. They’ll just stop bringing them to you.
Read more from Annalisa Barbieri here: Be interested, be curious, hear what’s not said: how I learned to really listen to people | The Guardian