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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 30-Apr-10



Talking to Mom

I had a frustrated letter a while ago from a person (I'm guessing teenage) who was having problems with their mother, who apparently talked a lot and listened little. Here's some of what I said:

The trick in discussion is to get out of your own head and into the other person's. It sounds like your Mom is stuck inside hers and the challenge for you is not to get stuck inside yours -- that's the way arguments happen where nobody listens and it just gets louder and louder.
Your challenge is to get your Mom to listen to you. Really listen, I mean, not just wait until you have finished so she can continue.
One thing that may be in your Mom's head is that you're not listening to her. I'm not there and can't tell, but if you can show you're listening, then she's more likely to listen to you in return. Maybe initially you'll have to do more listening than talking, but when she's calmed down (and that happens much quicker when you stay calm) then you'll be able to talk more.
When people are emotional, they don't listen much. Helping your Mom to be calm by really listening and staying calm is a good thing (although at times this may be difficult!). Another trick is to do unexpected little things for her. Make her a cup of coffee. Clear the table. Things like that.
If you do all the above and she's still talking more and listening less, then (and only then) it's time to tell her what she's doing. Tell her how you feel, whilst staying calm. It's really powerful when someone tells you they're very frustrated, yet in a quiet way. If she brushes it aside, repeat yourself, a number of times if necessary. Maybe also you'll need to give her time to think about it.
To your Mom, you may seem like a little child. You've got to convince her that you're becoming an adult, which may mean a long period of acting like a mature and thoughtful adult. Sometimes it takes quite a bit of evidence to persuade people, so you may need to be patient.

I remember my own mother's rantings when I was young. At the time it seemed she didn't listen. Looking back, I think she was struggling with accepting me as an adult. She loved looking after us and was brilliant when anyone was ill. Yet at other times she got angry when she saw me fleeing the coop and making my own life. The anger, I see now, was uncontained frustration at the thought of losing a child.

Children often have to learn to cope with parents by themselves, just as parents have to learn to be parents. It's tricky, but we've no option but to do our best.

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