Am I listening?
During the question time after a talk I gave about relationships, a number of questions focussed on older people’s relationships with the younger generation.
“I want the best for her, a future with a degree, a good job…she can wait with the partying for later.”
“The world is not a safe place. When he is out at late, I worry whether he is still okay.”
“I thought we were on the same page, but the next day she was out all night again…”
Older people’s motives are often love and concern, they do have the youth’s best interests at heart. But as I listened to what people were sharing, I also became aware that they were focussing on what they had said and not on what they had heard the younger individuals say…
In my interactions with young people I have realised that I cannot take for granted that they will hear the “wisdom” I want to share with them. I cannot assume that just because I am over 50 they will respect me and be eager to hear my opinion. In fact there have been many times when I have downloaded something profound in my own view, just to see their eyes glaze over as it becomes “blah blah blah” somewhere on the journey down their auditory nerve…
It is only when I first really listen to them, their dreams, goals and priorities, and their questions, that I will know whether I really have some helpful information to give them. They will only hear what they are motivated to hear, and even then, I cannot control how they are going to use the life experience I have to share. Sometimes all our conversation does is make more clear to them the direction they want to take, which may be different to what I had hoped. Can I affirm their independent decision-making and allow them to harvest the consequences of their actions…
So there are two challenges to me in my communication with the “youth of today”:
Am I really listening?
Do I respect their choices?
What are your challenges with inter-generational communication?