Are you a Skillful Listener? Learn to O.W.L.

family talking and listeningWould you like to really know how someone feels or what they’re thinking? We ask the question, “How are you?” all day long, but do we really know how a co-worker, spouse, or even our children are doing? Just Observe, Wait, and Listen (OWL), it’s that easy!

We adapt this approach from Speech Pathologists who began using OWL in language development. It’s a valuable communication tool for us all.

OWL encourages us to notice what has captured other’s interest and to patiently wait as they communicate about it.  Listening shows people their value.  When we aim first to hear what’s on their mind, rather than dominating conversation with our thoughts and opinions, we’ll discover just how much we’ve been missing!

Tonight, at your family dinner, I challenge you to OWL. Instead of asking, “How was your day?”  Try something new. Observe. What is your their mood?  Do they look tired, sick or happy?  Watch them for a while before you speak. If they don’t talk first, verbalize what you see, “You look tired; is that how you feel?” Wait for them to answer. Give them a chance to explain.  Even if they just reply, “no,” show them you’re listening for more.  If they take the lead with, “We all got in trouble at lunch today because Joey shared a habanero pepper with the kids at my table,” let them tell the story. Avoid jumping in to give your opinion.  Become an active listener.

I believe all of our relationships could benefit if we slowed down our conversations and
took the time to listen and fully understand. Sometimes I think, oh, my kids just don’t talk very much.  But, would they if I was a more intentional listener?  How many times do I find myself jumping in with assumptions and say what I think, missing the mark of what the other person was even saying?  Communicating by observing, waiting for others to develop their thought, and really listening is more than just showing courtesy, it’s showing them how valuable they are.

As you can imagine, this practice of really listening will take some self-control.  You’ll find it especially wonderful in drawing out a soft-spoken child or adult. So prepare your meal, have a seat, and try the technique of OWL.  You’ll marvel as you discover the treasures inside those you love.

Learning to Listen,


olivia and stephanieStephanie Allen is Co-founder and President of Dream Dinners and a New York Times best-selling co-author of The Hour that Matters Most. Naturally a visionary and optimist, Stephanie hopes to inspire America through her nurturing voice of encouragement, assuring families…  “You’re doing a great job!”