Have you ever tried to talk to someone and noticed them giving you the “I don’t have time for this” signals? They check their phone, glance around the room while you’re speaking, or even take a step away from you?
I’ve been on the receiving end of this before, and it feels awful. I feel like what I have to say isn’t important, and I feel like the person I’m trying to connect with doesn’t value or care about me.
Unfortunately, I’ve also been on the giving end of this kind of behavior. I started noticing that this is what I often do to my kids when they’re trying to speak to me!
I would like to take a moment and acknowledge that my kids are talkers. They love to process things around them through conversations…every waking moment.
While this can be beautiful and exciting to hear at times, it often hits me as just a lot of noise. As a result of feeling overwhelmed by it all, I subconsciously start to send out signals that I don’t really want to hear what they have to say.
Sometimes in the moment, this actually can be how I feel. Still, the message of “I don’t want to talk right now” is so inconsistent with what I dream our future relationship to be! In my ideal world, I picture myself sitting one-on-one at the kitchen island with any of my grown children, chatting heart to heart over a cup of coffee.
If I want that scenario in the future, I need to lay a strong foundation now. I need to communicate to them that I value what they have to say, and by extension – I value them. I hate to think that I’ve made any of them feel the way I feel when someone looks disinterested in what I have to say.
One simple thing I’ve started to do in order to grow in this area is “step in.” When I notice one of my kids talking to me, I make the choice to step toward them and step into the conversation vs. stepping back because I have other things to do. Just that one step triggers in me a set of healthy listening behaviors. I find myself making eye contact, giving physical touch with a hand on their shoulder or a little back scratch, and genuinely listening to what they are saying rather than just trying to squeeze in an appropriately-placed “yep” or “uh-huh” without engaging my mind.
An interesting by-product of this endeavor is I’m growing in my conversational skills. When I’m on my game, I strive to think of a follow-up question or two when they are talking to me, but sometimes that can be a real challenge! For example, when they share a 4-year-old’s plotline to a story, I really have to dig deep to come up with something to ask that is interesting to me and goes along with what they are sharing!
A challenge I’ve faced as I’ve tried to step in more is that there are times when I truly can’t talk. In those moments, I try to be honest and say, “I can’t be a good listener right now, and I really want to hear what you have to say. Let me finish what I’m doing here, and then I’ll find you and give you my full attention.” I usually get to circle back to them in a reasonable amount of time. Then we both enjoy the conversation more, fully engaging with each other.
As I grow in this area, I realize how task-focused I can become at home. It’s a battle to set aside my plans and switch over to giving my focus to what my kids are sharing with me. Through my attention and efforts, I hope they see how important they are to me and how I value what they have to say.