From a TV commercial – Scene: Parents are in the kitchen. Daughter enters, hugs mom and screams, “I just got into one of the best schools in the country!”
What the father heard: “I just got into one of the most expensive schools in the country!”
This is a great example of how what you hear is not necessarily what was said, or intended. We see the world through our personal filter. The words that come into our ears can come out scrambled because of attitude, emotions, fatigue and stress levels. You’ve made it about you, even if, in that moment, it isn’t about you at all and it impacts all your communication.
Let’s go back to the commercial. The father, concerned about how to pay for this fantastic education, has already shifted into worry mode. The pressure is on, and he may not be able to express sincere joy for her accomplishment. If so, his daughter is going to be disappointed at his lack of excitement. This incredible moment is now heavy with anxiety on his part, and sadness or resentment on hers.
Conversely, remember that when you are sharing something and don’t get the response you are hoping for, it probably has little or nothing to do with you. Your listener is focused on how this impacts him or her.
So what’s a parent to do to improve communication and sharing?
Put your listening ears on. Be attentive and engaged in really hearing what the other person is saying.
Take yourself out of the picture. Easier said than done, but it is necessary at the time. People are trying to tell you something that is important to them. Do your best to put your reactions and needs on hold.
Put the other person first. Let her have her moment. Be happy or comforting, or whatever is needed.
Now that you have refrained from reacting emotionally, it’s time for you to consider what this conversation means to you. Sit with it for while, if you need to.
Identify your concerns or fears. Be honest about them.
Share them more calmly with those who should know.
What is it you desire to accomplish or change?
What are the steps you need to take?
Who do you need to ask for help?
Whatever you are feeling is real; however, how you react and respond can make all the difference… for both of you. Be in the moment. Hear what is said. Hear what is meant.
Fern Weis is a certified life coach who learned that caring and good intentions are not enough in parenting. In fact, they are often the problem! Fern supports parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, including addiction recovery. She helps parents release guilt, end enabling and confidently prepare their children to thrive through life's challenges. Her articles are featured in Thrive Global, Medium, Motherly, The Teen Mentor, and Bergen County Moms.
Learn more about coaching and classes at www.fernweis.com. And then download your free guide, "Five Powerful Steps to Get Your Teen to Talk." For information on Family Recovery programs, visit www.familyrecoverypartners.com.