It is one thing to hear these emotions and say, "Boy, I can really tell you are upset." But it is another thing to allow these emotions to penetrate your heart, to allow yourself to feel the pain or the sadness. The key is not merely to understand these feelings but also to allow the feelings to touch you. This is one of the primary ways that people feel cared for and loved.
Does this sound like a lot of work? Do you think it makes more sense just to make a decision, without really understanding what the other person is feeling? Be careful! Just making a quick decision will not solve your problem. When people don't feel understood and cared for, they may "agree" to some decision, but they won't get on board with it. Relationally, it doesn't feel to them like a satisfying or effective solution. And in the end, you'll have to talk about these things all over again.
Does it seem as if identifying the emotional nugget will take far more time than other methods of communication? A lot of guys think so! But in fact, it actually saves tremendous amounts of time.
Guys, take note: Effective communication is ultimately more efficient and takes less time than other methods. A lot of men feel frustrated when their loved ones seem to go on and on. They don't understand that the reason they go on and on is that they don't feel emotionally understood. If these fathers took the time to actually uncover their teen's emotional concern or fear, the conversation would move on and they wouldn't have to hear the same thing a dozen times, from six different angles. When guys finally "get" this, the lightbulb goes on for them. They get excited about their ability to condense the conversation.
"All I have to do is help her see that I truly understand her feelings?" they ask, amazed and delighted.
Yep. That's it. Sounds great, doesn't it?
Guys, hear us: If your daughter repeats the same thing over and over, we can almost guarantee that she does not believe you understand her heart. You could say at that point, "I noticed that you are repeating yourself, and that causes me to question whether you believe I am understanding you. Am I missing something?"
Is this method easy? Not in one sense — it's probably very different from what you've done to this point in your life. But practice makes perfect! And over time, it gets much more efficient. At first, we admit, it feels awkward and you may be clumsy at it. But as you get more practice, it gets easier. In fact, this is the most streamlined form of communication that we know.
So learn to listen with your heart. Put your problem-solving urges on hold for a while. Problem-solving skills remain extremely valuable, of course, but they are much more effective after you understand the emotions involved. So save time! Get efficient! And look for the emotional nugget.
Effective communication makes room for people to feel what they are feeling, and to know that their feeling — their heart, the place where they are emotionally — is not only okay with me, it's welcome, and I am going to care about it.
Taken from The DNA of Parent-Teen Relationships: Discover the Key to Your Teen's Heart published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. Copyright © 1998 and 2005 by Gary Smalley and Greg Smalley, Psy.D. All rights reserved.