I’m currently reading a book entitled How to Volunteer Like a Pro and this chapter (6) really got me thinking… and so I offer it for you to consider as well. Enjoy 😉
If paying attention to what kids talk about is the passive side of listening, what’s the active side? Here’s the script of a digital movie I wrote for DCLA and the Youth Specialties CORE tour. It’s my best shot at putting words to the adolescent longing to be heard…
Listen-You wanna know how I’m doing? Don’t ask.
Seriously. Don’t ask if you’re not ready to listen. Don’t say, “How you doin’?” I’ll just say, “Fine.” It’s the answer I’m trained to give-whether it’s true or not. A shallow answer to a shallow question. Most people don’t really wanna know; they assume I know they’re just being polite. I don’t think that’s polite at all. Short questions get short answers.
You wanna know how I’m doing? Ask what I’ve been up to; what I’m working on; what’s up with my family. If you’re asking me (and I sensed you were), most of the best question don’t have question marks:
“Tell me about your sister.”
“I’d like to hear about your job.”
“Tell me how you felt.”
“Tell me what you mean.”
“I’d like to know more about that.”
You wanna know how I feel when you ask questions that way? I feel included. I feel cared for. I feel like I belong.
Please…if you already know the answer, it’s not really a question, is it…it’s a test. Please don’t do that to me. (I hate tests.)
Don’t make me look foolish. Don’t trick me. Don’t use me to make a point.
If you’re serious, ask what I think, ask how I feel, ask an honest question, and wait for my honest answer.
Learn from silence. If I don’t answer right away–if the silence goes on too long–ask what that means. Maybe I’m embarrassed. Maybe I didn’t understand the question. (Maybe you weren’t clear.) Maybe I’m thinking (and wouldn’t that be nice). You wanna know how I’m doing?Sometimes I’m sad because life is confusing and painful, and we both know there’s nothing you can do to fix that.It’s okay. I’ll be fine…truly.
That doesn’t mean I don’t want you to check. Give me a chance to tell you when I’m fine, and maybe I’ll tell you when I’m not.
Don’t take my first response at face value. Listen with your eyes: Do I look like I’m doing all right? Listen with your heart: Do you believe my answer?
With the very best motives–sometimes with the worst–I’m capable of every kind of deceit. Just like you. Don’t ask me to do what you won’t. If you wanna know my story, tell me yours. Let me know I’m safe–let me know you’re not perfect either. When I believe that, I’ll talk your ear off.
Read that with a group of adolescents, give it a moment to sink in, then ask –
- What do you think is the most significant thing in the piece?
- Why do you think that stands out for you?
- How can you imagine that making a difference if you acted on it?
If you draw those kids out and really listen to what they say, I’m betting it will make a difference in how they listen to what you say. Tell me if it turns out I’m wrong about that.
Jim Hancock invested two decades as a church-based youth worker. Now he spends his days in Leucadia, California, writing and creating digital movies and learning designs like “Raising Adults,” “The Justice Mission,” and the “Good Sex” curriculum for youth workers, parents, and adolescents.
Learn more about and purchase How to Volunteer Like a Pro.