March is International Listening Awareness Month. News to me…and I thought these tips were particularly relevant to parents. In our busy lives, it takes effort to truly listen to our kids. Between carpools, sports, school, homework, etc., it’s an often overlooked – but important – exercise to truly listen to each other. I remember telling my son once, “I know you hear me, but are you listening?” He looked at me as if I was speaking Greek.

Effective Communication and Parenting

My first job was at a big advertising agency, and I remember them telling us that you need to hear something SEVEN times to actually move on it, to purchase something. My kids must have heard that somewhere (“Just keep watching TV, she’ll keep asking us to set the table, and each request will get louder and louder…just wait until she counts” must be going through their minds!).

So, in honor of International Listening Awareness Month, here’s the scoop. According to the ILA (International Listening Association) we only retain about 50% of what we hear immediately after we hear it, and only about 20% beyond that.

Think about the implications this has on our daily productivity:

• We spend a lot of time trying to recall what we can’t remember
• The quality of our work is reduced because we don’t fully understand what was asked of us
• We get into unnecessary arguments and debates about tired issues
• Our relationships are weakened and challenged

A fascinating fact is that our ability to be a good listener is directly linked to our EQ (emotional intelligence). By improving our EQ, we can become better listeners!

In recognition of International Listening Awareness Month, EQ expert and author, Dr. Travis Bradberry, provides five emotional intelligence strategies from his bestseller, Emotional Intelligence 2.0, to improve listening and overall communication skills.


#1 Don’t Take Notes at Meetings. For one week don’t take notes at any meeting you go to. Look directly at anyone who is speaking, and spend your time trying to notice what you otherwise miss with your face buried in a notepad.

#2 Clear Away the Clutter. Inside your head, that is. Stop the internal chatter. When you catch yourself planning your response as others talk, stop and refocus on every word the other person is saying and why they are saying it.

#3 Take Feedback Well. Listen and really hear what is being said. Ask questions and seek specific examples to better understand the other person’s perspective. Thank the person and absorb the information before deciding your next steps.

#4 Tackle a Tough Conversation. Start with where you agree. Then ask the person to help you understand his or her side of the equation while resisting the urge to plan your rebuttal. When the person is finished speaking, help him or her understand your side. Move the conversation forward to a solution and check in later to make sure the situation was resolved and to allow the opportunity to keep the dialogue open. Editor’s Note: I love this tip…especially where it starts. By starting on common, friendly ground, any conversation is likely to be more successful.

#5 Watch Body Language. To know what people are really feeling and trying to say you have to become an expert reader of body language. Keep a close eye on the speaker’s posture, hand gestures, eye movements, and facial expressions. This will give you a leg up by helping you to see the whole picture.

Editor’s Note: Thanks for the tips! Reader question: How can we bring these ideas home? How do you get your kids to engage and listen? I’d propose an electronics-free zone at times to avoid distraction and increase focus on family…