Listening Makes World of Difference to Young People

By Jeremy Brown

The last calendar year has been a period of tremendous growth for me – personally, professionally and spiritually. Many factors surround the reasons as to why I’m in a growing season: I’ve changed careers, moved to a different city and developed many new relationships in the process. The most significant factor in my growth, however, has been simple in concept but profound in action.

I’ve started listening.

I’m an outgoing, relational person. I’m comfortable speaking in most settings. Because of that I was of the mindset that verbal skills were most imperative in communication. Last summer at a leadership conference I was introduced to the following Henri Nouwen quote and it completely altered the way I’ve communicated since.

“To listen is very hard, because it asks of us so much interior stability that we no longer need to prove ourselves by speeches, arguments, statements, or declarations. True listeners no longer have an inner need to make their presence known. They are free to receive, to welcome, to accept.

“Listening is much more than allowing another to talk while waiting for a chance to respond. Listening is paying full attention to others and welcoming them into our very beings.”

Most of us have a natural tendency to listen with the intent to respond when really we should be listening with concentration on understanding, especially to the young people in our lives. They don’t always want advice or guidance; they want to be heard, understood and taken seriously.

Listening serves as the most essential skill in building relationships. Author Michael Purdy writes that listening is also our primary means of growth and intellectual development. We impart knowledge when we speak; we learn when we listen.

Purdy also offers some action steps for all of us trying to become more effective listeners:

  1. Want to listen
  2. Focus your attention
  3. Be aware (perceptive) as you listen
  4. Interpret verbal and nonverbal cues
  5. Consciously work to remember what you hear
  6. Make a habit of responding with feedback
  7. Care about the relationship as you listen

Heeding the wisdom of Nouwen and Purdy and fully paying attention to others while trying to eliminate my need to make my presence known has resulted in immense growth, learning and relationship building this past year.

Listening to the young people in your life can be the most important thing you do. You will fulfill their need to be heard, you will learn new things about their life and you will grow stronger in your relationship.

Jeremy Brown is the TEENPOWER, Communications and Special Events Coordinator at Youth Resources.