Kids were late for school on Tuesday, my fault, and I made our new schoolrun rota pal late too. Now I realise my error, but when I grabbed my phone from my son while doing a 3 point turn, to look at the map, I was cursing Jools. I had done her a favour, and she returned it by giving me duff directions. “There isn’t a turning on the left before the main road……..” I wont repeat the rest, fortunately the traffic chaos I was causing drowned it out to my little crew.

Actually she was right, their road is on the left before the main road, just a different main road than in my mind. She was driving a different way down the street in her head, and if I had really been listening, I would have been looking in the right direction too.

Made me think about the practice we have been trying in our household since meeting Alan Sharland, a conflict coach, mediator, and all round insightful guy. He taught me a practice called Co-Active listening and it’s pretty simple, and has the capacity to cause remarkable understanding and insight.

To practice it you chose a topic – “why Ziggy do you feel its unfair that you go to bed at the same time as your sister?”. And then you listen. Really listen. And to make sure you are listening, you then repeat back what they have said, just adding something like “did I get it all?” at the end. And usually you didn’t, so they clarify, and you repeat, until you really know you get it.

In practice, you may give each person a set time (say 3 mins), then you repeat, and then you reverse the process. The understanding you get from it is outstanding, but nothing beats the feeling you get when on the receiving end, when you know that the other person is really listening, just listening to check they understand, rather than anything else.

And in practice, not as an exercise, you can use it everywhere. My children light up when they realise I am really listening. And so do I.

You can find out more on Alans website, or if you mail me, I’ll send you a short one pager that describes the process.

Enjoy the listening.