Published On: Tue, Sep 27th, 2016

Fully Engaged but Not Fully Listening!

Fully Engaged but Not Fully Listening!


Special needs, age 34 and totally enjoying his “kid” show… as he kept saying “booger, booger….” with some intensity. I said, “Joey just get a Kleenex. “Mom, booger, BOOGER!” I repeated to get a Kleenex. Finally, he points to the TV and I could see he was watching WORD GIRL, yes, WORD GIRL. In his excitement about the show, his words weren’t clear! “Word Girl” sounded like “booger” to me. Then, he came to the kitchen, looking at dinner, pointing and saying “booger!?” (AKA as burger!) I think I need to listen better!


While most of the time I feel like I observe the surroundings and listen carefully, this wasn’t one of those times. He and I both laughed (I’m thankful he has a sense of humor!) but I was the one who came to the realization that I was fully engaged in the conversation but I was not FULLY LISTENING!


In normal every day life, and even more so with our children with special needs who are often hard to understand, we must be totally engaged, fully listening and tuning in to understand what others are saying both verbally and emotionally? Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way:


  • Look around/observe what is happening. I clearly knew he was watching TV but didn’t zero in on what he was watching so that I might have figured out what he was saying wasn’t “booger”!
  • Ask questions instead of assuming the answer! Had I asked, “Do you need a Kleenex?” instead of telling him to get one, might have initiated a “no” response and then I’d have had to check a little closer to what he was saying.
  • Go to the child/adult and look at them – eye to eye – when trying to figure out their communication challenges. Sometimes that real one on one attention solves communication miscommunication well!
  • Seek to understand – I clearly missed the boat on this one. I was busy in the kitchen and just want him to get a Kleenex but he was excited to tell me one of his favorite shows was on! He wanted me to understand that excitement and I wasn’t engaged enough to get to that point.

All these points help with our kids (and adults) with special needs, but it also helps in marriage, at work, in ministry, and with friends, family, and neighbors. It’s a skill to communicate well and takes practice, but it can be learned. I’ve learned I can be fully engaged but not fully listening….and I’m still learning and getting a lot of practice to try to get it right! I hope you’ll join me in practicing being fully engaged and fully listening.

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