Has your friend, spouse or relative ever said, “You’re not listening to me?”
Of course they have! It’s happened to me plenty of times. Of course, I get defensive and say, “I’m listening” and I can (on occasion) repeat back what was said to me word for word… but that’s not necessarily listening, now is it? Memorizing, maybe, but listening? No.
Here’s what usually happens:
FATHER: Did you catch the game last night?
ME: No, I missed it, did we win?
FATHER: No, 6 to 2, if you can believe it. In fact—
It’s at this point that my father continues talking, but I’m thinking about the Mariners. I’m thinking about who’s to blame, what went wrong, and the highlights I’ll watch when I get home. By the time my father finishes I say.
ME: What is wrong with them this season?
And a dialogue ensues as though I’d never gone anywhere. That’s not listening and it’s far too common for us, adult children, with our elderly parents, let alone friends and spouses.
The only way you can truly listen is by being present and reacting to what someone is saying as opposed to thinking about what to say next. Don’t think. Thinking is how you miss out on the fun of conversation; thinking is how you get annoyed; and thinking will keep you from being happy.
Type “overthinking” into Google and the first thing you’re likely to find is:
- How it’s draining your ambition and happiness while literally killing you.
- A quote along the lines of “Overthinking creates problems that were never there.”
These two things appeal to both sides of me (logic and creative) and both preach the same message: don’t overthink.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
The best part is, it’s as easy as it sounds. I emptied my head overnight – frankly, I feel lighter, almost like that negativity was weighing me down.
Why Listening to Your Elders is Important
My father likes to repeat things, repeats things a lot; he even has old VHS tapes of MASH practically playing on a loop in the living room. I’ve commented on how his record player is miraculous as it only plays broken records.
Here’s the thing, we’ve both (my father and I) been a caregiver for my grandmother (his mother-in-law). It wasn’t easy and we’d often cut off her sentences when she started spiraling down another story we’d heard a million times before. Now that’s one of my cardinal regrets.
I heard the story a million times, but if you asked me to repeat it, I wouldn’t know where to begin. Instead all I’m reminded of is the fact that I remember less of the story than she did as the dementia progressed. That’s devastating and that’s what I have to remember her by. That lurking anguish and pain will kill you too.
It’s important to listen to your elders, especially those that suffer dementia, because what they have to say may be the last thing they’ll say to you. Even if they’re repeating the same story, that story may be all they’re able to say and maybe there’s something else they’d like you to hear.
Instead of cutting them off, fill in those gaps, you’ll be thankful you did.