Have you ever been in an argument where you noticed that you weren’t really listening to the other side because you were too busy thinking of your rebuttal? Or have you ever had a girl corner you in the youth room…she is crying and you can’t understand a word she is saying, which leaves you thinking of way to make it stop. I know I have. I have also noticed in several of my conversations I am busy forming a solid reason for why a student should do “something”, that I don’t always even hear what they really are saying. You know…solving their situation so we can move on to the next task.
But, I have found, especially with girls, that you have to really hear what they are saying to understand them. (I mean that in both a literal and figural way)
Generally in youth ministry we need to start by…
1. Make room for LISTENING. Maybe this is just me but if I am not ready to really listen than it won’t matter what technic I use to hear. For example, if I am in the youth room and there are other students around I can’t hear anything but words. I am ADHD in the youth room especially if it is before a program or service. I see people sitting alone or notice someone who hasn’t been in awhile…I am easily distracted. One Christmas party, a student walked into the room right to me and was crying. SHE WAS CRYING AND TALKING at me…and in all honesty all I could think was we are suppose to start the santa relay game right now. Luckily, she said something about her parents that triggered my attention back to her. I asked another volunteer to run the game and took the student out of the room to talk. Finding a quiet place with no people is huge for me when it comes to really listening. Included in finding a good location is forgetting about the other locations and focusing just on this one student in this moment. I need to make room for listening.
Now, more specifically when it comes to listening to girls…
2. Notice the “feeling” statments. Try to get pass the details of the situation and listen for statements that indicate their feelings. Girls (myself included) can get lost in the details of a story- because we assume that if you know the details you will understand the feelings but that just isn’t the case. Don’t be afraid to stop a story and ask the girl what she is feeling. “How do you feel about that?” It might sound funny coming out of your mouth but it helps them focus away from ALL the details to the heart of the issue.
3. Listen for your role. Excuse my overgeneralized gender statements…but sometimes girls just need to vent and they don’t nessecary need a game plan for dealing with the situation. And sometimes guys just need to come up with a game plan instead of listening to all the details! They may need more from you than a safe place to vent BUT listen first to see if they already know the help they need. All they may need from you is a confirmation of a decision or intervention for a friend. Likely, they have come to you because they need you…but don’t assume you know exactly what they need without really hearing them speak.
I am still trying to learn to be a better listener, I have a long way to go… What tips do you use when listening to students, especially girls?