There is Listening then there is LISTENING. Our eyes convey a lot regarding how closely we are listening and attending to what is being said.
There is a recent article in Psychology Today, "How Your Eyes Reveal How Much You Care". Here they discuss how eye contact creates a bond between mind that shows itself in our pupils. There is a "mental coupling" that without eye contact, ". . . speaking is just disturbing air molecules".
I think we have all been in situations where we are communicating with someone and we watch as their eyes glaze over. And, we have been in situations where we are "listening" to someone and OUR eyes start to glaze over.
I'm not a big sports fan. I realize that just admitting that can get me kicked out of Texas! It can be challenging for me when a group of guys start to talk about sports. They throw out names, stats, win streaks, losing streaks, etc. I know if they are paying attention, they can watch as my eyes slowly start to lose interest.
Then there are topics that I'm super interested in. Of course, anything therapy, psychology, philosophy, the brain -- all that geeky stuff. And this is the stuff that other people may find interesting, in the beginning.
But as I continue to excitedly talk about these topics (because everyone should be as excited about this as I am), there are times that I can pick up through eye contact that I've exceeded their interest level.
Teenagers, Young Adults, & Other Important Relationships
It is completely normal to struggle to remain interested when we don't know much about the topic or aren't interested in the topic. And what an excellent way to connect with our teenagers, young adults, and even in other important relationships.
In our parent support group, a father of teenagers made a comment that I thought was brilliant. In talking about communication with his teenager, he said, "I really do try to act interested."
Our teens, young adults, and even our spouses may know that the topic they are talking about may not be super interesting to us. But when we make an effort to be interested, this communicates a lot to our kiddos or spouse.
And if we can maintain eye contact during the conversation, this is a great place to start. This conveys that we care about the other person, even if we may not be super interested in the topic. It's not about the topic, it's about the person.
While maintaining eye contact may be the foundation of connecting through communication, there are other ways to enhance that connection through communication.
Attend to the Person Talking
In building connection through communication, it's important to attend to the person talking. As mentioned above, making eye contact is one of the best ways to show that you are attending to what they are saying.
It can be tempting that when you are "trying" to be interested in what they are saying, that your mind may wander. Eye contact will help with this but so will giving your time and attention to the person.
It can be tempting to check that text or email that came in while the person is talking. Go ahead and put the phone in your pocket and leave it there until the conversation is over. It's easier to maintain eye contact without the phone distractions.
It can also be easy to try to multitask while the person is talking. Showing the person that they are important to you by stopping what you are doing at the moment and listen will help build connection.
And, if it's not good timing to have a conversation, let them know. For example, you can tell them that you are finishing something up and will be done in "x" amount of time and ask if you can talk once you're finished. You can add to this that you really want to be present when you are talking with them and don't want to be distracted while you're talking with them.
There are topics my boys bring up that I don't know much about. Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft, Avi Kaplan, but I am interested in why they are interested in these things. They know that I may be a little light on knowledge around these areas.
When I ask them questions about the games, they know it's not necessarily because I find them as interesting as they do, but that I'm interested in connecting with them. Talking about the video games is the vehicle to help us connect.
The dad from the parent support group understands this principle. He really tries to be interested by asking questions about what they are talking about. It's not an overnight process where the connection is built, but one conversation after another over time will help.
Go Out of Your Way to Learn More
What a cool opportunity. Just showing that you went out of your way to learn more about the topic communicates a lot about your desire to connect.
Bringing up something that you read about related to the topic will communicate that you care enough to spend some time educating yourself. It doesn't have to take much time or be a lot of information. A tid-bit here and there can help in connecting.
And who knows, you may start to develop in interest in something that you weren't too familiar with before. What a great way to build connection and bonds with your teen, young adult, and/or spouse.
Teen Therapy & Young Adult Counseling: Katy Teen & Family Counseling
How we communicate with others, and our non-verbal communication, is a key element in connecting with others. If you have a teenager or young adult who struggles with anxiety, panic attacks, social anxiety, performance anxiety, depression, ADHD/ADD, trauma, or PTSD, being able to listen and attend to them is that much more important.
If you looking for a therapist, all you need to do is follow these three simple steps:
Contact Katy Teen & Family Counseling
Let us help provide the help your teen or young adult may need and the support you may need as parents
Other Therapy and Counseling Services Offered at Katy Teen & Family Counseling
At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we provide a variety of therapy approaches that are supported by research and shown to be effective. Some of the teen therapy and young adult counseling we offer are:
Board Certified Neurofeedback Therapy
Peak performance (optimal academic brain performance)
Peak performance (optimal athletic brain performance)
Accelerated Resolution Therapy (ART)
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR Therapy)
Group Therapy for Teens
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Couples Therapy & Marriage Counseling
It can be stressful parenting a struggling teen or young adult. More than anything we want to be able to help them. Sometimes couples may disagree about how to do so. This can inadvertently create stress in a relationship.
And there may be times where the actions of you or your spouse or partner has damaged the trust in your relationship. You want to reestablish the trust in a relationship you have worked hard for over the years.
Relationships are complex and take work. It can be helpful to have an objective, third party who is also experienced in marriage counseling and couples therapy. At Katy Teen & Family Counseling, we also provide couples therapy and marriage counseling.
About the Author
Jason Drake is a Licensed Clinical Worker - Supervisor (LCSW-S), Board Certified in Neurofeedback, EMDR trained, and a Certified Brain Health Professional through the Amen Clinics. He has provided therapy to teens and families since 2003 and is the Owner & Lead Clinician at Katy Teen & Family Counseling.
He specializes in leading teams of high performing therapists who also specialize in teen therapy, family counseling, and counseling young adults.
Jason is also a leader in the field of teen, young adult, and family counseling providing coaching and technical assistance to teen Residential Treatment Centers across the country.
Jason is also a regular contributor to various magazines and publications lending his expertise to various mental health related topics. You can check these articles out on our "Featured Articles" service page on our website.
If you are ready to start your counseling journey, you can schedule a call with one of our Office Administrators by clicking on the button below:
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Phone Number: 346-202-4662