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Mind Control: The Essential Ingredient for Effective Listening by Gregory Bland

Aug 31st, 2011 | By | Category: Parenting

Pain was etched upon Katie’s face as others quietly covered their mouths, leaned in toward the person next to them, and began whispering about her.  Katie was of the staring eyes, and other’s uncomfortable feel, and the whispers where louder than many thought.  From my vantage point, on the platform, it gave me a great opportunity to view people’s facial expression which ranged from intrigue, surprise to outright disgust, that this once beautiful blonde was now sporting a vibrant pink hair color.

I was pleased that Katie remained the whole service despite the obvious discomfort and tension in the room.   It did not come as a real surprise when mid Monday morning (as a Pastor I never took Monday’s off) I received a call from Doug, Katie’s father, asking if he and Sheila could come in and speak with me about Katie.

“Pastor,” he said, “I am sure you noticed Katie in service yesterday, we’ve been having some problems with her and Sheila and I would like to come in and talk.  Would you be available today?”

Hearing the tone of his voice on the phone and having witnessed what took place during service the day before, I quickly agreed to meet with them.  When they arrived at the office, they were noticeably disturbed and began by saying, “Pastor, we’ve been having some problems with Katie and really need some direction as to what to do.”
“Does this have anything to do with the pink hair we saw yesterday?” I asked.
“It has everything to do with the pink hair.  We’re frustrated, disappointed, and uncertain what we should do with Katie right now.  We need advice on how to work with her.”

Pause here just for a moment, connect with, and consider (write down) your thoughts.

As you read the above scenario what thoughts came into your mind about Katie and her pink hair?
What do you think the issue might be with Katie that Doug and Sheila want advice on?
How would you begin offering advice to Doug and Sheila?
What do you want to say right now?

Curiosity is a powerful characteristic.  It can either stimulate our minds and get them running at high speed, or guide us toward understanding.

The following is how curiosity works to kick our minds into high speed.

1. Within every conversation something piques our curiosity.

2. We begin trying to identify a problem.

3. We look for indicators to confirm our diagnosis.

4. We develop a potential solution to their problem.

5. We develop a strategy to get the person to see and embrace our solution.

6. We look for an opportunity, or simply break into the conversation.

7. We tell the person what we see and try to convince them to embrace our solution or way of thinking.

Following curiosity in this way stimulates the second conversation outline above within our mind.  As we entertain this conversation, within our mind, it prevents us from being fully present, authentically listening, and prevents us from truly understanding what our child (or the person we are speaking with) is truly thinking, feeling, experiencing, and/or intending.

To break this cycle, we must discipline ourselves to leverage curiosity for understanding, not diagnosis.  To do this, we ask for clarification, or more information on what has made us curious, then give them opportunity to talk while we listen.

As someone has wisely said, “the only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions,” and parent coaches desire understanding not best guesses or assumption.

With that said, let’s revisit our conversation with Katie’s parents.  Listen to the rest of the story and see how accurate you were at determining what Katie’s issue was.

“I am not sure I fully understand what you are experiencing yet.  Can you tell me more?”
“Yes pastor.  You noticed Katie’s hair yesterday right?”
“Did you notice how people here were looking at her and talking about her?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Well, we had several parents come quickly to us and explain that Katie is rebellious.  That we need to do something about her before she is totally out of control.”
“OK, go on.”
“Well, this has deeply hurt Katie, because they said it within her earshot yesterday as we were leaving church.  She cried all the way home, and asked us if we thought she was rebellious because of her hair.  We affirmed to her that we didn’t, but it doesn’t seem to be getting through to her.”
“OK, tell me more about her decision to dye her hair.”
“Well, she came to us earlier this week with this hair brained idea to dye her hair pink.  No pun intended.  Then we talked about this as a family.  I mean, I would never dye my hair pink and neither would Sheila, and Katie knows that.  But really, it’s just hair and we never thought it was that big of a deal.   So after talking a bit about it, we decided to let her choose and simply said, ‘You know Katie, it’s your hair, we love you as a blonde and we’ll love you with pink hair too.  It’s entirely up to you, you can choose.”
“Wow, that’s fantastic.  Sounds like Katie really honored you throughout the process of making this decision.  You two are really blessed.”

For our purposes here we’ll stop the conversation and revisit your thoughts from earlier.  What did you think Katie was dealing with?  How accurate were you at discerning what the real issue was?  Be honest.

It gives us something to consider when speaking with our children (and others) doesn’t it?  Is it possible that sometimes we allow our minds to run, jump to conclusions, or make rash judgments that are so far from the truth its embarrassing?  Further, think of the relational tension that we can inadvertently create if we pursue a line of thinking that is incorrect.  As a Dad, husband, and pastor, I have recognized that most relational issues people (myself included) face, have been due to a misunderstanding of some sort.

Can I encourage you to resist jumping to conclusions, judgements, and assumptions.  Instead leverage curiosity to gain understanding by asking more, listening, and clarifying to ensure you really do understand what your child is thinking, feeling, and experiencing.  Doing this will communicate great value, acceptance, and love to your child, which will enrich your relational bonds and bring true understanding.

Until next time, enjoy your journey into Pro-Active Parent Coaching and remember, keep your mind under control.
Your friend and pro-active parent coach

Gregory Bland

* Image Copyright unknown.

*Gregory and Lynn Bland currently reside in beautiful Nova Scotia, Canada.  They have recently completed writing their parent coaching book, “Pro-Active Parent Coaching: Capturing the Heart of Your Child, A Parent’s Guide to Coaching.” Additionally they are providing pastoral care, and participate in various speaking engagements. For more information visit Pro-Active Parent Coaching or write to

Copyright 2011 Gregory Bland | Pro-ActiveParentCoaching | Nova Scotia | Canada |

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