How often in our daily lives do we say, “What? Did you say something? Did you hear me? I just told you that or Are you listening?”
In this day and age we seem to always be competing with someone’s screen. Whether it’s their desktop, laptop, ipad or phone, we just can’t seem to get anyone’s undivided attention. All of us seem to think we have become masters at multitasking, but it’s taken on a new meaning. It’s one thing to cook dinner while your kids are doing homework in the kitchen and you are answering questions and talking with them. It’s a whole other kind of multitasking when we are scrolling through our phone, commenting on someone’s post while our kids are talking to us. Can you honestly say you know what they are saying or are you just nodding and giving an obligatory, “yeah, uh huh?”
Listening is a big deal to me. I say it everyday to my husband and my kids. My husband is the worst culprit in our house. He is busy and he is often on the phone until late into the evening. It can be difficult to get his attention even when he is looking at your face. After 25 years though, I can usually tell if my words are registering or falling on deaf ears. He says on a daily basis, “you never told me….” This causes 99% of our arguments because I have inevitably given him this information sometimes within the last 30 minutes. THIS DRIVES ME CRAZY! He doesn’t understand why I can’t just calmly give him the information again without a rant on the importance of listening. It’s frustrating to him because he has a lot on his mind. While I realize he has a lot on his plate and he works very long and hard hours to provide for our family, I WANT TO BE HEARD! Right now you are 1) probably laughing because you empathize with this rant, 2) rolling your eyes because I am clearly overreacting to a simple request to repeat the information or 3) you have no idea what I am talking about because these things don’t happen in your house. If you fall into category #3 you should probably stop reading and email me an essay on how to get your family to listen to you in 3 easy steps.
So, why do I get so heated up about this? I believe it’s a matter of respect and listening shows that you care about someone. If I am taking the time to tell my husband about my day or more often something about our kids, I expect he wants and cares enough to hear. It sounds simple, but this is where it gets muddy. He does care. He does want to hear, but we have all become so conditioned to being tuned into alerts from our phones that we miss alerts from our loved ones who happen to be standing right in front of us. We have slowly been trained to be on call to our work, our friends, and our accounts and we have become like Pavlov’s dogs when it comes to our devices. We are a nation addicted to news alerts, notifications, and ringtones. My husband and kids could probably tell you the last thing they read on their phones, but not the last conversation we had before they left the house.
I get it if you are waiting for an important call or you want to keep your phone out when your kids are away. I do the same thing. It does make me wonder how previous generations (including ours) survived without the ability to be in contact at a moment’s notice. It takes real effort to step away from the noise and listen. I am not even talking about the crazy experiments where you detox from your devices for 7 straight days or, God forbid, longer. I am just talking about putting our phones down, looking at the person sitting across from you and actually listening to the words coming from their mouths. What does their body language say? What is the emotion on their face? We all want to be heard and feel like we matter.
Real connection matters. Use your devices to call your family and talk to them. FaceTime them, tell them how much you love them. And when those family members are sitting across from you, put your phones down and listen.
Oh, you have teenagers who don’t talk? Be persistent. Outlast their silence. Hold them hostage in your car even if that means you have to go to Starbucks, the car wash, or the bank to get them money. Trust me there are so many places you can go all while keeping your kids in the car with you and they eventually talk. They can’t help themselves. The other day we drove to Starbucks, Walmart, Target and two grocery stores all in the name of finding something red, white and blue for spirit week. I loathe running errands after school and my daughter was GRUMPY, but it worked and she was powerless to my tactics. I also know all the in and outs of spirit week, homecoming, which friend is painful to deal with at the moment, her grades in every class, which teacher she loves, which one she despises, and while we didn’t find a single thing worthy of spirit week we connected and had enough caffeine to last us into the wee hours of the morning.
It’s been another really hard week. Horrible things have happened yet again and everyone is asking what we can do. What if we just started listening to the person standing across from us? Maybe if we start really tuning into one another we will know what is happening in each other’s lives and we will know when someone is hurting or needs help. What if we just let one person at a time know that they matter by listening?
Sunshine & Sarcasm,
Lowi & G