Answer: Get an unlisted ear.
There was a powerful TV movie that aired a while back about teenage suicide. The movie conveyed the idea time and time again that there are too many “unlisted ears” all around us – in school, church, our social circles, even in our own families.
The sad refrain from a friend or teacher or parent often is, “Why didn’t I listen? Why didn’t I notice – there were so many signals. Why didn’t I ask questions? Why didn’t I stick my nose in a little?” Often, however, the reasons remain inexplicable.
Lending only half an ear
At the end of every day, don’t we all regretfully recall moments when we failed to stop and really listen to someone about whom we cared? Think back. Did you quickly dismiss someone in the family this morning because you were running late and you hardly heard what they were telling you? Were you irritated about something to the point that you mentally blocked out everyone around you? Were you so focused on the big meeting or the job evaluation or the client luncheon that everything that happened or was said earlier that day is a blur? It’s easy to do, and we’re all – young and older – guilty of it.
Try this little exercise. Think back to this morning between getting out of bed and walking out the door of your house. Replay any conversation that you had during that time. What did you say to someone? Who was that someone and what did he or she say back to you? Was there a time or location change for any upcoming event? Did someone (who?) need some cash? Did you give him or her money – how much – and what for? Did someone (who?) mention being late coming home today? Did anyone (who?) grumble about a problem while gulping down his or her cereal? Speaking of cereal, what did your teenager have for breakfast this morning? What did you have for breakfast?
Okay, this morning could be hours ago. Let’s make it easier. Play back in your mind a two-way conversation you’ve had within the last hour. What was the subject, and what was the outcome? Matter of fact, who was the last person you talked to just before you started reading this column?
Living in a haze
We are often so busy that we function in a haze. Today did anyone try to get your full attention but only get a fraction of it? If your answer is no, are you sure? How often do you have an unlisted ear, at work or at home? Or do you even know?
Parents, make a conscious effort to listen intently to your kids. Test yourself often. Play back a conversation and see if you can recall the details of what was exchanged or decided or solved. Turn your unlisted ears into help hotlines. Keep them open and receptive.
Tom Tozer and Bill Black are authors of “Dads2Dads: Tools for Raising Teenagers.” Like them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @dads2dadsllc. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.