I’m Listening…Really!

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A couple of months ago while home from college, my daughter and I spent a lunch together on one of our periodic dates. It was a great time to catch up with her and live in her world for a few hours. I have missed hearing the regular details of her life during her freshman year. You know, the personal details that spill out over dinner or in car rides to church. Our conversation ebbed and flowed. Then, during one of those pregnant pauses that mark every good conversation, I snatched the opportunity to buzz-kill a light discussion.  I thought all dads did that ;).  I never miss the opportunity to “teach” a life lesson, much to the chagrin of my children. “So, honey, as you look back on our days together as a family, are there things that I’ve done as a dad that you wish I hadn’t done or would have done differently or would change now?” Door opened. And she entered.

“Well, dad, actually there isn’t too much I would change. You’re a good dad.”  People sitting around us had difficulty breathing as my head consumed all of the nearby air.  She began, “But…” Ahhh…the proverbial “but”. Psssssst–that was the sound of the air quickly leaving my once laptopinflated noggin.  She continued, “But, I wish you would put down your computer and look at me when we talk so that I know you’re listening to me”. Ouch. All I could think was, “well, you asked for it.”  It reminded me of a saying a friend of mine used to make, “be careful what you ask for, because you may not like the response.” Fact is, I knew she was right.

Maybe this particular issue isn’t one you’re child would raise as a barrier in your relationship.  Computers have become an extension of my hands. Being connected has almost become an obsession (sounds like a potential blog post). The “point” of her comment was this, “Dad, when we’re together I want (and I’ll add NEED) you to pay attention to me?” Face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Relationships need both!

Online communicating is here to stay. This isn’t some ideological rant. However, I am as guilty as anyone in letting the inevitable become the impenetrable. I promised her that when we are together in a room I will make a concerted effort to pay attention to her when we are talking. Active listening is becoming a lost skill (if you can say that a skill you barely possess in the first place can ever be lost :-)).

I, Jeff Abramovitz, vow that I will be a better dad (and husband) and spend more time looking into my children’s (and wife’s) eyes when we are engaged in conversation. How about you, dad?

SOUND OFF: Is the monitor becoming a wall between you and your family? If not computers, what other things might be inhibiting the deepening of your communication with members of your family?

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7 Responses to “I’m Listening…Really!”

  1. Tim Says:

    YOUCH!! That hit between the eyes and very heartfelt, Jeffrey!!
    We’ve had this conversation before but, now that you’ve put it in writing I’m gonna have to really focus harder on keeping my hands around the coffee mug and looking up.
    Seriously, thanks for the reminder. AND be sure to thank Erin too. 🙂 She had the courage to “follow through” when you asked.

  2. Jeff Abramovitz Says:

    Hurts as much to write it and re-read it myself ;). Thanks for your kind words. Here’s to better listening!

  3. RScottW Says:

    There have been times when I’ve been sitting at the kitchen table with my two middle sons, each of us in front of a laptop. I’m really bad at this looking-in-the-eyes thing. It’s one of the things I committed to try to do better as I completed Men’s Fraternity this winter.

  4. sandy andrews Says:

    jeff, thanks for that as a young dad of young kids and one who is very much attached to the internet, i appreciate this precautionary tale. again thanks for the words of wisdom.

  5. patrowland Says:

    This is so true and an issue that I’ve been working on in my life. A couple of months ago I turned off the internet on my PDA phone, and I’ve made a commitment not to be on my computer in the evenings because my wife felt I was more engaged with people on twitter then I was with people in the room with me. Ouch! It’s been a good change though. I hate that it took a conversation like that to make the change.

  6. Jeff Abramovitz Says:

    Thanks, Sandy. It’s been a long time struggle (and still is 😉 so this was as much a reminder for me as though you were just a bystander in my issues. I actually shared a renewed vow with my wife to put the computer down earlier in the evening to pay attention to her! Here’s to appropriate time for Twitter, Computer and heavily weighted to Family!

  7. Jeff Abramovitz Says:

    Way to go, Pat. that’s an encouragement to all of us who struggle with this. Look forward to hearing the benefits you’ll reap. It’s not what you’re going to miss but what you’ll gain that will be life changing for you. I continually have to make this a priority so, I need to keep my hands free and my eyes fixed on the object of my REAL affection–my wife and kids. Keep me posted!

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