5 Terrific Tips on Listening to Birthparents
Listening is extremely important
in any relationship, and especially so when first meeting a prospective
birth parent. Often we are so nervous as adoptive parents
that we chatter on and on, never really getting to know the woman
on the other end of the phone or sitting across from us.
The average person thinks four to five times faster than they can
speak. We have the ability to think about numerous things at one
and often most of us are doing just that. This can become a real
problem if we do this while speaking with a prospective birth mother.
of us find it is natural when someone is speaking to us to be planning
what we will say next or thinking about something unrelated, or maybe
deciding whether we agree or not with what the other person is saying.
We selectively listen for the information we want to hear in order
to make our point. If you are concentrating on what you need to say
next to control the conversation, then you are not focused on the
birth mother and her needs.
Failing to recognize this can affect a birth mother's decision and
desires and could cost you the opportunity to adopt her child. I
seen more than one prospective adoptive couple lose the opportunity
in their first interview by talking too much about themselves or
the birth mother by asking too many poignant questions at one time.
The conversation is often disheartening to the birth mother who was
attracted to a family's profile online, then when she finally spoke
to them on the phone or in person, they were not what she expected
and often were so nervous they scared the poor girl away.
Many birth mothers have shared with me they would be more comfortable
speaking with the adoptive mother before speaking to the adoptive
father. Other women don't seem to mind with who they speak with first.
A tip: Refrain from using a speakerphone for your first conversation.
This is a "no, no" for most first conversations; wait to
get to know each other and always ask her permission before putting
her on a speakerphone. Another "no, no" is to have your
spouse on the extension phone listening in without the birthmother's
knowledge. Both of these have turned birth mothers off to a family
and can be seen as insensitive of the adoptive family.
To be a good listener, try these 5 simple steps:
LOOK at the birth mother when she is talking. Stay focused on her;
don't let your eyes wander around the room. When conversing on the
phone, don't check your e-mail or clean the kitchen while speaking
to a birth mother, let her know she is important enough to take
this time just to get to know her.
LISTEN, and don't interrupt her. Let her finish the sentence before
jumping in. If you are on the phone and you think you might forget
to ask her something, try jotting yourself a note and wait until
she is finished.
ASK questions about her and her life, be interested in her and her
life, but don't ever judge her, drill or preach to her. Ask if she
would like to know more about you, and then proceed.
4. ACKNOWLEDGE, nod or say something to show her you understand and
hear what she is saying.
5. MIRROR or repeat what you heard her saying in her own words, this
way she knows you got it.Remember,
building a good relationship with a birth mother isn't a chess game.
Planning your next move or modifying your strategy while she is
talking is counterproductive and can make the difference in a match
or not. Finally, practice these tips today by listening with the
people around you, coworkers, your boss, and other family members.
It may seem strange and uncomfortable at first, but you will find
people will start responding favorably to you and when the chance
comes to meeting a birth mother, you will have some experience at
Article by Mardie Caldwell COAP
Founder of Lifetime Adoption
Adoptive mother, host of Let's
Talk Adoption and author of AdoptingOnline.com
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