Years ago, a parent asked my permission to yell at her child. I was so taken a back that I responded with, “Why do ask?” She replied, “Because I don’t feel I have the right to yell at him, since he already has so much stacked against him.” My response was, “Maybe you need to talk to someone.” The look on her face spoke volume, it was as if she was saying, “Thanks for really listening to me!”
In our society, especially speaking as a speech pathologist, we are taught not to give personal advice or to give advice that is not within the scope of our license. While it is true that we should not give advice beyond our professional training, I find that too often we don’t want to get involved at all. If we are not sure what to say we give what I call default responses or answers.
When we give default answers or run the mill responses it is sometimes because we are not really listening or understanding what is communicated by a person. If I had truly listened I would have said, “It is okay to feel angry. It is okay that you want to scream at your son. It may seem like there is nothing you can do about this situation, but yell! While yelling will not stop the situation, it will give you a sense of control. However, I do not believe yelling at him is going to help.” If I had truly listened to her, it would have opened the door for me to share about other professionals without sounding defensive. The simple act of listening without giving default responses is sometimes all a person really needs. I know sometimes I am just asking for a chance to talk, share, or brainstorm without being given the usual run the mill responses.
Listening, while simple,is difficult to do sometimes. Do you truly listen to the person sitting next to you or are you just agreeing so you can move on to your next agenda? Listening means you have to be present, acknowledge and share that emotion with the person talking to you. Listening takes time from you, it takes caring and it takes being patient.
Uduak (Udie) Osom holds a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in Speech and Language Pathology from San Jose State University. Udie has served students of all ability levels from preschool through grade 12, for over 20 years. She is very passionate about neuro-developmental disabilities and social-cognitive disabilities. She is the owner/director of Innovative Therapy Services, a pediatric speech, language and social skills clinic in Santa Clara, CA. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.