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Safe Listening


I was talking to a single mom many years ago. She reported that her15-year-old daughter told her everything. She knew, who was doing drugs, drinking alcohol, skipping school, sneaking out at night, and so many other things going on in her daughter's life.


I was amazed at her honesty with her mom and immediately began to think about when my sons were 15. Had they even told me their friends were smoking cigarettes, I would have said, “I better not catch you smoking cigarettes. I better not catch you with a lighter or matches.”

Ouch! I can see why my boys would never feel safe telling me anything. This goes to show you how we are all at different levels of parenting skills and emotional maturity.


I didn’t want my boys to smoke or be around others who did, but the way I expressed it caused them to disconnect with me verbally and emotionally. This was a huge blind spot for me. I wanted nothing but the best for my boys but was very inept at providing the kind of discipline they needed. My idea of discipline was punishing, not teaching and molding. Ouch!



I started thinking about what I might do to learn how to be a safer listener. I needed to receive important information about what is happening in the lives of others who mean so much to me. I typically learned the things I needed to know after the fact rather than at a time when I might be able to ward off a problem.


I learned that safe listening involves self-control. This means, not allowing my emotions to override the way I process what I am hearing. Here is a short list of self-assessment questions I use today that enable me to be a safer listener.


Do I interrupt?

Am I too quick to give advice and cut the speaker off?

Do I tell hero stories?

Do they feel important when speaking to me?

Do they feel intimidated or afraid of me?

Do they feel safe to disagree?

Do I demonstrate that their voice is important to me?

Do I talk too much or not talk enough?

Do I embarrass or shame them in any way?



Every relationship is at a different stage of communication, trust, and intimacy. These questions are key to becoming a better spouse, friend, parent or neighbor, they are life-changing.


A little pre-planning before a conversation can cause a much deeper conversation. The more we talk to connect, the closer and more trusting relationships we build.


Once you put these self-assessment questions into practice, it is easy to see how gently curious questions follow safe listening and enhance communications, understanding and connection.


Gently curious questions will be revealed in Wednesday’s blog.


Stay tuned and watch for the blind spots.




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You can get a copy of my book below.

Blind Spots in Relationships

What I don't know I don't know about myself


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