Rangatahi / young people in Aotearoa New Zealand want to feel listened to and understood. The What Makes a Good Life? report found that rangatahi / young people feel a need to be heard and taken seriously by others in their community. There is a difference between being heard and being understood. Active listening helps bridge the gap and move from hearing someone to understanding what they’re saying.
These days, everyone is flat out busy and there are more distractions than ever around us. That’s why it’s important to have conversations that matter with as few distractions as possible to be truly supportive and there for the other person.
Active listening requires us to make an effort and show commitment. To actively listen to rangatahi / young people, we should give them our undivided attention. When done right, it can help young people feel heard and understood and know you aren’t judging them. It might even help them feel calmer, more connected and more focused.
Good active listening can re-open communication lines with rangatahi / young people that have closed as they entered adolescence. By letting them speak without jumping in with your opinions, advice, or solutions, they will know that you aren’t just waiting to give them advice on a situation they may not even want or need.
You can practice active listening while still disagreeing with rangatahi / young people. Give it a go.
How do we actively listen?
- Let rangatahi / young people speak uninterrupted and hold your questions and comments until they’ve finished speaking.
- Give them undivided attention by putting your phone away and stopping any tasks you are doing.
- Use your body language to show your interest and care, by being relaxed and open. Make eye contact if appropriate, or give them a warm smile or nod.
- Reflect back to them what they said. You might start by saying something like “let’s see if I’ve understood you. You ….”. By reflecting what they said in your words, you demonstrate that you listened to and understood them. This also lets them quickly correct you if you haven’t understood.
- Pay attention to their body language, this will give you cues about how the conversation is going.
- Ask thoughtful open-ended questions that can’t be answered with a simple yes/no and where they can answer in any way because there is no correct answer.
Rangatahi / young people can face many difficulties and challenges as they grow into adults. Often they work through them in remarkable and mature ways and find solutions. Other times they may need assistance or advice. Sometimes they have a plan and want to share it without looking for advice. By practising active listening with rangatahi / young people and giving them space to express themselves in their unique way, you may be able to help them grow and learn as they navigate their own journey.
Find organisations that help rangatahi / young people manage their emotions.