Terri caught herself doing it again. “Just listen,” she thought to herself. “Don’t offer advice; don’t ask too many questions.”
Jake, her 22 year old, had gone into his silent mode, yet again. Right in the middle of his story, he just stopped talking. He was annoyed with her. It was his way of getting her attention.
The silence remained…
It became deafening as they sped down the highway.
“I know,” she ventured. “I asked a question and you were getting there. You don’t like me to interrupt your stories with questions. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. I’m trying real hard to break the habit. It’s just that I’m used to talking with females. That’s how we communicate. It’s how we know that the other person is engaged. I know that it annoys you, but know that I am trying. Please finish your story. I’d love to hear the rest.”
It took Jake a while, but he did start his story again.
“Whew, I salvaged it,” Terri rejoiced to herself. She listened. Even when she was tempted to chime in, she chose to say nothing. It was her way of communicating respect to her adult son.
Later that afternoon, Jessica, Terri’s 27 year old daughter dropped by to do a few loads of laundry since her apartment’s washer was on the fritz. Sometimes she felt that days like these became counseling sessions.
Being single was hard for Jessica. She struggled to make the money stretch far enough even though she had a good job. There always seemed to be something that was going wrong in her life and she needed someone to work through it with her. Terri knew her tendency was to try to fix her kids’ problems, but she was shifting gears realizing that she needed to allow her kids to fully be independent. She wanted to be there for them, but not be enabling.
As Jessica continued with her most recent frustration, Terri knew that Jessica was someone who needed to verbalize every detail and feel heard.
“Mom, I just don’t know what to do. There just doesn’t seem to be anyway out. The noise level is ridiculous in that apartment complex! It is so hard to come home from work at 10:00 with the TV blaring next door. I got woken up twice the other night with those two love birds having a screaming match out in the hallway! I’ve just about had it.”
As Terri watched her daughter get more agitated about her circumstances, she started asking pertinent questions.
“Wow, how did you handle it?”
“Did anyone call the cops?”
“You must have found it really difficult to go to work the next day.”
And the conversation continued…and continued…until Jessica responded. “Mom, what am I going to do?”
And that’s when Terri started asking questions again. “What do you think your options are?”
“How do you think you should handle it?”
As Jessica continued to think through her options, Terri responded, “Sounds like you’ve solved your own problem!”
“Mom, thanks for listening and helping me figure it out! I got my laundry done and have an action plan for solving the problem at the apartment. You’re the greatest!”
Communicating with our 20-somethings can be so different. Figuring out how they like to be communicated with and adapting our style to theirs allows them to feel the respect and love they need. Listening can mean two totally different things depending on their bent. Jake wanted to tell his story…his whole story…without interruption. Jessica needed lots of dialog with questions that make her think. If we want to build relationship, we need to change in order to communicate in the way our 20-something can feel connected.
Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
“Let go…and let God,”