7 Habits of a Strategic Listener


Listening strategically requires thoughtful discipline. “No one knows who is listening, say nothing you would not wish put in the newspapers,” said the wise scholar, Charles Spurgeon, If only we all lived by that motto. Unfortunately, folks say all kind of weird stuff and expect us to understand. Some of those folks might be living in our house. Maybe we even gave birth to them.

We’ve all experienced that moment when we realize the other person is only pretending to listen. Instead, they mentally prepare their next debate point. Or the moment when our kids’ eyes glaze over. “You can't fake listening. It shows,” said Raquel Welch according to So true!

Internet writers offer blog advice on how to be a good listener. They offer ideas we can try, like nodding and repeating comments for clarity.

As parents, we want to engage physically, but emotionally, and spiritually, too. What if we could listen to the soul of our kids, like doctors listen to our heartbeat? Especially with teenagers, we must learn a whole new language. Here are 7 ways we can listen strategically.

#1 Recognize that some folks process “out loud,” particularly creative people. Encouraging comments like, “take all the time you need…” allow them freedom to sort out ideas as they talk.

#2 Understand that many people tell you what they need indirectly, rather than directly. Either they either don’t know or they have a subtle fear.

#3 Learn to diffuse their frustrations by being open to discussion and correction. When we choose a humble approach, we find our kids feel free to be honest.

#4 Stay focused on your communication objective which is to hear the underlying truth. When our child is angry or attacks us verbally, we decide instantaneously how to respond. Taking it down a notch allows parents to hear the hurt in our kids’ hearts. Then, we can always circle back later to anything peripheral.

#5 Ask good, gentle questions. Nothing turns an argument back into a conversation faster than a gentle question.

#6 Getting your own point across is not always a worthy objective. Simply listening gives your child practice at coming to logical, judicious conclusions on their own.

#7 On the other hand listening strategically is always 100% beneficial. Listening strategically is our best chance to hear into the heart of our child.

All humans are messy sometimes. Whenever our teenagers get argumentative, for instance, we tend to forget to listen. People have very dysfunctional, fear-filled ways of seeking love and preempting rejection. Finding compassion to listen strategically empowers us to see into the heart of those we love. That’s a pretty cool super-power, kinda like subliminal perception on an emotional wave-length.

Cathy Primer Krafve, aka Checklist Charlie, lives and writes with a Texas twang. Comments are invited at


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