There we were…a group of six friends about to set sail out of New Orleans’ chill into the welcoming balmy Western Caribbean.
With eager anticipation, I sauntered off the hotel elevator to retrieve my jacket for a last walk around NOLA’s French Quarter before boarding our cruise ship. Way down the corridor, I could hear the one-sided pitched volume. It was my Baby Boomer friend in full-blown argument with his late-70’s mother.
His ire started at breakfast. What for him was a proactive question about how to settle our bill became for her like a Spanish Inquisition. Confused, Mom appeared to blow off son’s query.
Stepping courageously into the foray to mediate, here’s what I saw.
Hearing versus Listening
Did you know there’s a vast difference between these two? Hearing is the mere mechanical act of picking up sounds. Powerful listeners tune in at profound levels. They discern the unspoken even more than what’s being said. That’s because they recognize only 7% of the message comes from words, while 38% derives from voice (tone, pitch, volume, speed) and 55% from body language. Believe me, their non-verbal 93% was screaming at me.
My friend rushed head-long into solving a problem I’m not convinced existed to the degree he felt; borrowed trouble. Intimidated, Mom defaulted to her family pattern of shrunken silence. That behavior, too, got misinterpreted as ignorant denial. Certainly, no one was located “over there” seeing the devolved conversation from the other’s vantage point. Instead, each was squarely located “over here” inside their own thoughts and feelings.
Failure to Appreciate
With the mistaken beliefs flying back and forth, mother plus son were like ships passing in the night. Neither offered what the other needed; gratitude and heartfelt understanding. They missed the chance to uncover shared values. My friend longed to be recognized for his attentiveness – going above and beyond to make life better for his Mom. She desperately yearned to express how sincerely thankful she is for his constant efforts.
Here’s what needed to happen
Diagnosed with slowly-developing Alzheimer’s, this always mentally-acute Mom is secretly petrified of what will happen if she no longer recognizes him some day; so is he. Those underlying terrors are what I surfaced.
By feeding back my observations in a charge-neutral fashion, each received their craved acknowledgement. They felt seen in their essence. Mind you, I wasn’t the one in the heat of battle! I recognize it is lots harder to set aside your agenda once “hooked” by anger, as was my friend.
To learn more about the communication skills in which I coach Baby Boomers dealing with change-resistant elders, stay tuned for my next Blog. In the meantime, know you can always schedule your Parent Readiness Session through firstname.lastname@example.org or (905) 822-2503.