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Listening Efficiently to Gifted Kids

By Bob Yamtich on July 10, 2023

Guest blogger Bob Yamtich has been practicing Nonviolent Communication for twenty years, and he supplemented that work to become a licensed MFT in CA. He now coaches individuals and families from Indiana. Bob has worked with a variety of gifted schools, micro-schools, and farm schools.

Listening Efficiently to Gifted Kids

I've long said about work with gifted kids that "a fire needs a fireplace." When an intense soul mixes with a wild mind, it needs a grounded, stable, safe place to be warmly reminded of the shared reality. Empathy can be that fireplace. Stay present and listen for feelings and the universal human needs they point to.

Empathy isn't agreement. You are validating their beautiful needs, but feel free to debate specific strategies to meet those needs. The needs will still be there in ten years and in twenty, but the strategies will likely transform over time. Passion and play remain, but Pokémon cards lose their power. In negotiations, I often name the need for fun and work to develop a plan that is fun for everyone (including adults).

We aim for connection before solution. Once everyone is fully heard for their needs, natural creativity and cooperation make problem-solving easier. Needs become design criteria for the strategies to meet them. Needs awareness guides executive functioning. A potentially wild mind benefits particularly from a summarizing, concise empathy. With an awareness of the top three needs that are alive for you at this moment, you can hold in your mind what matters regardless of working memory limitations. Even the most distracted of minds can hold in their awareness one need that they care about. From this place of self-connection, a kid is ready to make a request to meet or to continue to meet that need.

Gifted kids long for choice and power in their world. Self-connection enhances both, and after some experience receiving empathy they will likely enjoy the autonomy of offering themselves self-empathy. You may be presented with a long, winding story that centers on fairness or right and wrong. Let your empathy guide the child to flexible needs. "Are you wanting me to hear how much you want a solution that works for everyone?" If a person ever thinks there is only one solution, they are considering a strategy and not a need. Needs are universal, beautiful, and flexible.

Conflict occurs at the level of strategy; harmony, shared reality, and cooperation occur at the level of needs. Google "NVC needs inventory" to enhance your needs vocabulary. Consider decks of NVC feelings and needs cards, purchased or homemade, to help each person be fully heard while the playing cards lighten the mood. Listening efficiently becomes the foundation for choice for all and shared power.

Read Bob’s Blog HERE


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