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Authentic Listening

Authentic Listening

In this article we are going to consider the meaning and the implications of authentic listening when answering young people’s requests

When in the previous article, speaking about the “right highness” in the relation among players, I talked about Authentic Listening. I thought it could be appropriate to stop (and I’m not using this verb at random) and think about what it actually really means and about how often adults, both coaches and teachers, believe they use such an art without actually practicing it.

Too often in fact through verbal and non verbal communication channels we explicitly or indirectly transmit the message that we are only hearing them talking. However, hearing does not necessarily means listening.

Young people (but also us adults) have a big need to be listened. Sometimes they tell us frankly “Coach, I need to talk…”sometimes they, especially very young or introvert or more problematic players, ask to through other channels: through misbehaviors, complaining about improbable aches or distracting themselves only to get attention. We must be keen observers and listeners to catch our guys’ verbal and non verbal signs that change according to their expressive abilities, their level of awareness and maturity.
The educator also must be patient with young people’s needs and keep to their time. Often the adult minimizes the problems of a young person, sometimes he smiles (or even laugh) at what they are telling him, “but please…it’s only…go on training…you’ll get past it…”quickly getting rid of him and forgetting that the boy or guy lives that problem accordingly and in proportion to his age and his (small) experience. Sometimes the educator forgets he has had similar experiences when he was younger. Therefore it is easy to make the mistake of trivializing reported problems or offer ready to use solutions. By doing so, not only does he demonstrate poor ability to listen, but also he does not allow the kid to think and find a solution to his problems on his own. That experience does not enrich him, does not make him independent nor helps him to grow emotionally, socially and cognitively. In this way the boy/kid understands, unconsciously, that he always need an adult and that he can’t make it on his own. 
Boys/kids often “only” need to be listened, to express their emotions and their past form which they are sometimes scared because they are young and inevitably inexperienced.  They “only” need to see that we are there for them and with them, most of times they do not need solutions but understanding and normalization. They want to feel support and judgment and preconception -free listening. Instead we often listen to them (or that is what we believe!) while we are doing something else, turning our back on, in a hurry, nodding automatically, and remaining on the surface when in reality they are communicating us much more between the lines.
If we are able to understand that our young player needs to talk and to be listened to emphatically, it is important to take a moment to dedicate to him without interruptions and hurry. It is not easy, I know. It is better to postpone than to pretend we are listening because it affects self-confidence and the relation. We could say, for example “I see that for you it is important to talk about this thing, why don’t we discuss it after training or tomorrow if you arrive a little bit earlier, so that we can talk without drags or interruptions?
We as adults underestimate a lot what kids feels, the problems they face, but most of all what is underestimated is their huge potential, their creativity (even in problem solving), their ability to understand situations and people, and this happens since when they are very little. That: “He doesn’t understand…” that coaches often say maybe should be addressed to themselves.


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