One of the best advice I have ever gotten was at a parenting seminar by Hal Runkel, the author of Screamfree Parenting. He teaches parents to get into the habit of saying to their teenagers, "Tell me more". This opens up the invitation to a conversation, and gives parents the time to come up with a more creative and intelligent response that strengthens the relationship rather than a reactive response which is likely to push the child away.
I think these are three incredibly useful words we can all use. For any relationship. In any given stressful situation. Your kid gives trouble at school. Tell me more. Your spouse drops a bombshell on you. Tell me more. Your mother-in-law is being a pain in the ass. Tell me more.
Just three simple words. Right.
I often forget that not everyone is built like me. Take a tour around my brain and you’ll find a man lounging around in there. I compartmentalise my thoughts and emotions into neatly marked out boxes. When I get upset about an issue, I give it one day tops before I work out an acceptable solution, close off the box and move on. Even on PMS days when I’m hormonal and my thoughts and emotions are all jumbled up, you’ll still find the man in me sitting among the collapsed boxes, trying to make sense of it all. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a logical solution to most of life’s problems. If there isn’t one, then let’s just move on already. I don’t really get the whole let’s-just-keep-talking-and-talking-and talking-about-it concept. And that just makes me one crappy person to go to if all you want is a listening ear.
The rational part of me understand that for some people, especially women, all they want is someone to validate their feelings. The brat in me insists that talk is cheap, and solutions are worth so much more. But deep down, I know that if a relationship is important enough, then I need to learn to be a better listener. And if I want to grow as a person, I’m going to have to try.
Breathe. Tell me more.