Life coach column: Too distracted to listen
Vail CO, Colorado
We rarely give or receive the gift of truly listening. It’s probably due to how busy we are as a society. The saying, “Time is the new currency,” shows how precious both time and money are to us. It’s not about the money, it’s about the time commitment required.
One of my clients, Daryl, recently shared his frustrations on raising his 13-year-old son, Jesse. Divorced for six years, Daryl is a single parent.
“It must be a stage of development ” and fairly common to teenagers ” but the gap between Jesse and me is widening,” he said.
“What’s going on in Jesse’s life and who are is friends?” I asked.
“Jesse and I don’t see each other very often. He’s with his mother every other week. He has track practice every afternoon, so even on the weeks when he is with me, I’m working and he’s busy. He spends a lot of time playing video games, skateboarding and hanging out with his friends,” he paused. “I’m not sure who he’s spending time with or what his interests are.”
“How often do you and Jesse spend one-on-one time together?” I asked.
“I can’t think of the last time. It used to happen at bedtime, but as he has gotten older, I don’t put him to bed anymore. He says goodnight and goes upstairs. The next morning we get ready and are both out the door,” Daryl said.
“What are some of the best conversations you’ve had with Jesse?”
“He and I had a lot of deep conversations after the divorce. He was trying to understand what had happened,” Daryl said. “Those conversations occurred at odd times. One time we were waiting at the airport for a friend to arrive and his plane was delayed. Jesse and I had an extra two hours to wait. We found a restaurant and ordered appetizers. The conversation began with small talk and then covered some deeper subjects that must have been on his mind.”
“What was unique about that time together? Why was it so easy for you to talk?” I asked.
“Since neither of us had anything else planned, we found ourselves face-to-face with each other without any time pressures or interferences. He didn’t have any video games or a TV and I chose not to answer my phone. We had the opportunity and the time to be together. It was a great conversation!” he remembered.
“How can you recreate an atmosphere like that?” I asked.
“I need to be proactive and schedule time with Jesse. This might be difficult as he grows more independent, but if I start now and we make it fun ” and possibly more routine ” maybe it will provide the circumstances to encourage this type of interaction between us.”
“How will you make this happen, by when and how will I know?” I asked, pushing for accountability.
“Before our next coaching session, I will schedule at least one opportunity for Jesse and me to have this kind of time together. I’ll get his ideas and have a few of my own as to what we could do. The goal will be to have fun and possibly open one of those precious communication spaces between us.”
Daryl smiled and joked ” “I need to get in this kind of time now, before Jesse thinks I am the stupidest person on the planet. Plus, what better way to spend my time than getting to know my son?”
Coaching Challenge: Think of one important relationship in your life. When was the last time you truly communicated with this person? Find two hours to spend together. The rules are simple: no other people are invited; it is not an event that needs to be watched (movie, play, game, etc.); no electronic devices (TV, cell phone, hand-held video games, etc.); and you need to be sitting across from each other, ready to interact. Come without an agenda, but be open to talking about whatever comes to mind, AND be ready to actively listen to what the other person says. It doesn’t have to be expensive ” remember, “time is the new currency,” and you are investing your time in this important relationship.
Sheri Fisher is a Life Coach who lives in Grand Junction. Her practice, Living On Purpose, focuses on personal and professional coaching. The situations and characters in her column are fictional to maintain client confidentiality. Sheri can be reached at email@example.com or for more information, visit http://www.coachwithsheri.com.
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