By Erica Herzog, LMFT
Supervisor of Family Preservation, KVC Kansas
Did you know that when we are in the presence of someone, we are always communicating? The content of the conversation is only a small piece of what we are communicating. Our nonverbal communication such as body language, voice tone, and facial expression play a significant role in how we deliver and receive information.
Think about a past conversation you have had with your child. Who was the speaker and who was the listener? Did you each take turns being the speaker and the listener? What kinds of voice tones were used? What impact did the body language have on the conversation?
Working toward becoming an active speaker and listener can be very beneficial in creating and maintaining an increased positive relationship with your child and other adults. Here are some tips on how to practice active speaking and active listening as well as some things to avoid during conversations.
10 Strategies to Be an Active Speaker:
- Maintain eye contact
- Use an appropriate voice tone
- Be clear about the topic
- Use an appropriate pace (not too fast, not too slow)
- Use appropriate body language and facial expressions
- Remain on topic and focused on your goal of the conversation
- Use topics of mutual interest
- Answer questions
- Pause for feedback
- Ask for the listener’s point of view
10 Strategies to Be an Active Listener:
- Use appropriate body language
- Maintain eye contact
- Acknowledge (head nods, uh huh, hmm)
- Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes as you imagine their experience
- Use facial expressions that match the emotion in the conversation
- Paraphrase and restate what is being said using different words
- Ask questions
- Wait until the speaker pauses to speak
- Normalize (such as, “It makes sense to me that you would feel overwhelmed”)
- Use encouraging and positive words and say something nice
9 Bad Habits to Avoid:
- Jumping to conclusions
- Focusing on the negative
- Giving unwanted advice
- Tuning out
- Refocusing the conversation on you
- Trying to fix the problem
- Letting emotions interfere
Interested in seeing if these strategies work for you? Download this Active Communication Checklist!
Active communication is one of twelve skills taught in the Parent Management Training- Oregon (PMTO) model. PMTO is developed on forty years of research and practice with the core belief that parents are their children’s best teachers. KVC teaches this empowering evidence-based practice to parents and caregivers involved in the child welfare system, but the lessons learned from this model can be beneficial for any parent or caregiver. To learn about PMTO in Kansas, visit the Kansas Department for Children and Families’ website.
Read the other articles in this parenting skills blog series.