Now Stop Diverting and Actually Listen

divertingOne common roadblock in communicating is when parents dismiss the adolescent, making him feel unimportant, trivial, unworthy of attention.  Diverting is one form of dismissing – the practice of switching the conversation from the other person’s concerns to your own topic.  This is usually caused by lack of awareness and ineffective listening skills.  Or more commonly it is due to wanting to grab the focus of attention for yourself.

Parent:        How was school today?

Child:          Not so good.  Mr. Jones yelled at me in gym class and I got hit by the volleyball.”

Parent:        Oh, that’s not so bad.  When I was your age I was always the last one picked

                   for teams in gym.

Child:           But I got hit by the ball which isn’t my fault and it hurt!

Parent:        It hurts worse to always be the last one picked.

Child:           I’m really a pretty good player.

Parent:        I hated gym class…

This child is still trying to talk to the parent, but won’t for long if the parent keeps diverting.

We are all selfish by definition (Darwin’s ‘survival of the fittest’ insures competition and watching out for self-interests in order to survive); we are subconsciously always thinking “what’s in it for me?” with each interaction we engage in.  Having the conversation turn to self-interests feels satisfyingly indulgent to the ego, even if the conversation is with a mere child.

COMMUNICATION TAKEAWAY:  Maintaining the focus on the child instead of indulging in divergences, giving your full attention is good communication.  We can be pretty good at pulling the child back when the conversation goes off track and they divert (“Never mind about [that], let’s stay on the topic of your school work”].  Being mindful of your own diverting roadblock is good practice in communicating well.

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