Time to Talk: How Listening Removes Pressure to Perform

The Power of Listening

Time pushes against our ability to listen, to absorb and to progress thoughtfully.

Sometimes I am trying to do therapy and the client balks. It is obvious they feel overwhelmed. I have to remember to put myself in their shoes, instead of pushing my agenda. There is so much pressure on people today. I know that I myself often just want to jump off the conveyor belt of life, and into a simpler time. I can actually remember times of little stress as a child growing up in the 1950s. I miss those unplanned moments of exploration and discovery. Just to be able to have time to read a book lately seems such a luxury!

When I work with kids, some can ignore the pressures on them while others can’t. I remember that my experience growing up was much freer, with more play time to develop. All one has to do is look at the current Core Curriculum for kindergarten to get a clue!

Doesn’t sound much like play time! Of course, many of these goals are my own for the kids and I know that a talented teacher can often use very creative means for teaching these skills.

Perhaps the problem is that the child may be put on the spot to produce a goal. This week, I had a child who was balking in his sessions, so I back-pedaled. I remembered the power of receptive language-the listening side of the equation. I told the child he didn’t have to say anything, just listen. Depending on the goal, he could merely listen to my instructions, my modeling, my productions, my explanations, my examples, my placement of articulators, my grammar, my facial expressions, my narratives, my descriptions. After all, there is no failure or corrections while we listen. I tried to remember that there’s no rush to understand; it just requires a readiness that is either there or not (without any judgment).

This line of thought affected me as well. It made me want to slow down and ask people to tell me about their lives, to read more, to call friends and relatives just to listen and absorb. Nothing had changed but my stress levels came down.

The funny thing was, that once I took away the pressure to perform, my clients wanted to try to do what was hard. I guess I had given them back some control and they were thankful and gave their output as a gift back to me that was given freely.

So this Thanksgiving, remember the power of listening. My best wishes to you and you family on this day of thanks!

[Photo credit: (cc) Leo Reynolds]


Kathy Puckett

Kathy is a private practice speech-language pathologist living in Shelburne, MA and the author of our monthly speech and language column, Time to Talk. Living in Western Massachusetts since 1970, she raised two children here and has two grandsons, ages 15 and 8 years old. She has worked as an SLP with people of all ages for the last 14 years. She runs social thinking skill groups and often works with teens. As a professional artist, she has a unique and creative approach to her practice. She loves technology, neurology, gardening, orchids, and photography. She uses an iPad for therapies. She grows 500 orchids and moderates her own forum for orchid growers (Crazy Orchid Lady). Kathy is dedicated to the families of her private practice, and offers practical, creative ideas to parents. She blogs about communication at kathypuckett.com.

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