Ben Merens is a professional speaker and radio host.
His radio show, At Issue with Ben Merens, is very popular because it examines a variety of topics that have relevance to our every-day lives. As a speaker, Ben’s message is gaining more and more attention because of its importance: people are dying to be heard.
Ben was kind enough to answer some questions about this topic, which should be of interest to just about anyone. No matter how good a listener you are, there’s always room for improvement. We also have a right to be heard ourselves…
Daddy Brain: Can you overview what you speak about at your seminars?
Ben Merens: I talk about the importance of listening to others because People Are Dying To Be Heard. I discuss the three levels of listening basic to all our lives: listening to ourselves; listening to those we know; and listening to strangers. I also stress the importance of living and listening in the moment. I try to help people block out the distractions in their lives that impede their ability practice “Uni-Tasking” or focused listening.
DB: Where did this topic originate?
BEN: The topic comes from my 25 years in the journalism profession. I’ve learned that people all want to tell their stories. I’ve also learned that we tend to take less time to listen to others today because we all feel so busy and hurried. I find that it is healthy to just sit still and listen to another. The benefits of listening are both for the speaker and the listener.
DB: Do you feel the need to be heard? If so, is your need being fulfilled?
BEN: Yes, I do feel the need to be heard. I think we all have this need to some extent. I feed the need daily on the radio but more so when I am giving a speech about the Art of Listening. When I am speaking from my heart to a group of people from 25 to 250, my soul is fed and I am at peace.
DB: Do you have any suggestions on how a parent can balance listening to their kids with accomplishing a task that needs our full attention – like cooking dinner? We want our kids to be heard, but at that moment it might be difficult to really pay attention. What do we tell them?
BEN: If you’re comfortable cooking and talking…go right ahead. But when the conversation needs your full attention, use the opportunity to build trust and teach your child. Teach him/her patience by telling them that you need some time to finish cooking (or whatever else it is you need to do) BUT that you’ll give them your complete attention at … and state a time here. And, then stick to it. This is where the trust comes in. As long as you stick to your promise, over time your child will be willing to wait because he/she will know that you will be available. I don’t think a parent needs to be available for their child whenever he/she calls…but we need to find a happy medium between a child’s call for attention and a parent’s ability to provide it.
DB: How do we teach our kids to respect when mommy and daddy want to talk? Other than telling them, “mommy and daddy are talking, you’ll have to wait your turn,” how else can we instill the art of respecting mom and dad’s need for communication? I would think leading by example would be a good start.
BEN: I think the same rules apply here when Mom and Dad need to talk in private. A child needs to know that sometimes Mom and Dad need time alone. And sometimes, the child will have that same opportunity with one parent. Kids get it. They will learn to be patient if they sense there is justice and fairness in the request.
DB: I remember being told to “be quiet,” often as a kid. I was a talker, still am. My need to be heard has not left me, but I sometimes feel that what I have to say might not really be important or that people just don’t want to be bothered listening to me. How would attending your seminar, or listening to your audio book help me?
BEN: I teach others how to balance their need to be heard along with the willingness to listen to others. I help people learn how to prioritize what they want to say…so they can be heard about what really matters and disciplined enough to let the less important messages be left unsaid.
DB: How do we let them know they have a right to be heard?
BEN: We let them know they have a right to be heard by listening to them. And, we also let them know that they have an obligation to listen. An easy way to teach this to kids is to point out that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. We need to listen twice as much as we talk. It is a good rule of thumb for adults too.
DB: Dads still struggle to be heard. For too long, we’ve been trapped in a paradigm where we’re not supposed to have feelings, doubts or worries. Many of my readers are daddy bloggers who have found a voice of their own, or are struggling to find their voice. What advice do you have for dads that may not know where to look for their voice, let alone express it?
BEN: I would tell dads to start by listening to themselves. I advise people to sit still in a quiet place and think about what is important to them. If you don’t know what is important to you, it is unrealistic to expect others to hear you. But, once you have a message that you want to express, allow your passion for that message to get the attention of others. People can hear when you have something important to say and when you are just filling space. We all want to be heard, so we all have to recognize that we can’t always be the one talking. And, when we limit ourselves to voicing the truly important messages, people tend to pay close attention to us.
DB: How do we teach our community, family and friends that dads need to be heard too?
BEN: I don’t think it is a matter of segmenting out the needs of dads to be heard. I think we need to recognize that all of us need to be heard. And, just because someone tends to be quiet or not generally forthcoming in conversation, this doesn’t mean that they don’t have something important to say. Dads have feelings too. And they deserve to share them just like everybody else.
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Thank you Ben, for taking the time to answer my questions.
To learn more, feel free to visit Ben’s site at BenMerens.com. If you’re interested, his seminar is available on audio. You can also click here for more about his WPR radio show. If you have Internet service, you can listen in for free from anywhere in the world by clicking here and adding Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network to your iTunes, Windows Media Player or RealPlayer. It takes about 30 seconds to download the station. Then, just double click the downloaded icon to automatically add to your playlist.
And remember, you are not alone…