The most powerful force in nature is a parent's love and concern for their children. Parents have the potential to positively influence their child's well-being at every level but, in order to do so at the most significant degree, they first need to transform themselves.
Personal transformation requires, what Howard Gardner termed "personal intelligence" ⎯ which can be taught and learned like any other type of intelligence. Several attributes of this type of intelligence are:
- Being quiet inside and really listening as a way of being aware of our own feelings as well as the feelings of others.
- Being aware of habitual negative patterns of thought, behavior and communication and then making more positive choices as a way of better serving ourselves and others
- Being accountable and responsible for our experience at each moment rather than being a victim and blaming others.
These keys to developing "personal intelligence" are experienced while "masterfully" listening to another person. The masterful listener is quiet inside (no thoughts), totally receptive and connects with their heart to the person who is speaking.
Yes, words and information are important components of communication, but what is most essential is the depth of connection that people are capable of. We need to understand that we are not "masterfully" listening when another person is speaking and at the same time we are having our own internal dialogue.
For parents, listening at a profound level is motivated by their desire to assist there children in every way possible, and their child's yearning to feel connected to their parents. With this insight as a reference point, parents learn to "observe" what they do instead of masterful listening as a way of returning to the connection. These are six, of the most common types of internal chatter that prevent "masterful" listening:
- Judging the person who is speaking. This could include judging their physical appearance, social status, accent, what they are wearing, etc.
- Doing something while the other person is speaking. For example: talking on the phone, texting, working on the computer, watching TV, etc.
- Being preoccupied with the other person's opinion of us.
- Planning what you have to do once the conversation has ended.
- Getting angry, shutting down, or preparing a response as a result of being defensive.
- Thinking of a solution while the other person is sharing a problem.
Infants and very young children (and our pets) are a reference point for what the essence of connectedness looks and feels like. When a young child looks into your eyes they are inviting you into their world of oneness and loving. As an infant looks up at you, I doubt if they are thinking, "where did you get those ugly shoes," or "that hairstyle looks terrible," or "you're getting a little chunky lately."
For some of us going to this level of vulnerability and seemingly losing control of the situation can be very threatening. Rather than indulging and being controlled by the chatter in your head, you are being asked to surrender to the stillness and experience a heart-to-heart connection with the person in front of you.
Along with being better able to connect with and assist their children, "masterful" listening provides a direct experience of inner silence, experientially teaches caring through connectedness, promotes taking personal responsibility for the connection we have with others and also enhances the ability to reflect rather than react habitually as a way of making more life supportive choices.
Dr. Marc Rosenbaum is the founder and director of Education for Excellence which, for the past 22 years, has presented social/emotional programs to more than 5000 New York City, California and Colombia South American public school parents and teachers. Information and the 21-module online version of the program is available at www.educationforexcellence.com.
His books, Masterful Parenting... The book you wish your parents had read, El Arte de Ser Padres, and Education for Transformation serve as the curriculum guide and foundation for the programs.