Say something... Sounds simple enough, but what does that mean? What does “say something” look like or sound like? For many of us saying something means being involved with others or that you are interacting with others. You have the ability to communicate with others, but what if after you ask questions all you hear is silence?
Silence: no sound or being without sound. Silence the color would be the same shade as the air--nothing or invisible. Silence the texture has no true form or shape, yet it can be heavy and waited--almost smothering. Silence in a conversation however speaks volumes, and those volumes are often filled with chapters that have no conclusion.
As a rule, when you ask a question, you expect an answer. It’s is a simple concept of conversations and information seeking behavior. So what happens when the question is returned with no words, and minimal body language? Sometimes you ask the question again but with different tone of voice, or inflection, or with exaggerated body language just to get a response. Sometimes because of the silent response, you take a guess at their body language, and sometimes you engage yourself in a deep old fashioned argument. This is what happened with me just a few weeks ago.
“Hey, what’s up? How’s it going? How are you?” I had many options on how to start the conversation with my 18 year old son, and I think I picked, “Hey, what’s up?” To which I received silence. Again, asking questions are a great way to normally start a conversation because it allows for others to respond with choices and with the ability to give some information in return. However in my son’s case, it just caused more silence. I’m just NOT a fan of that kind of response, so I will continue to ask and ask and demand some sort of an answer. I asked him to come on a walk with me so that we could talk and so I could have some one on one time with him.
Unfortunately, I have actually coached him into waiting to respond based on all of my prompting. That’s not good either. So, how do you get information out of your teenager when that is obviously that last thing that they want to do is to respond? Ready for the magic? Well, there isn’t any trick or magic. We all have our ability to choose to answer questions or not. When we are feeling like answering, we will and when we won’t, we don’t. Sigh...now the term respect or the lack thereof, has entered into the picture.
Respect means to treat others in an appropriate way. I felt that when my son didn’t answer my questions with even a grunt, or a wave of the hand, or with the “mom, I’m too tired right now, can we talk later,” kind of way that his silence had now fallen into the disrespectful category. I took a deep breath and tried to stay calm. I watched him look at the floor and then bound up the stairs to his room. In my frustration, I followed him and told him to come on the walk with me. This was my second mistake because I had just reinforced the negative behavior.
In realizing my mistake, I turned and walked out the door, stomped down the stairs, leashed the dog and walked out the front door. My fists were white knuckled around the purple leash as a began the long walk around the block. After a few steps, I heard him behind me. I turned and just looked at him. He stated that he didn’t answer because he was tired. He would take ½ hour and then be able to answer my questions. I thanked him for telling me something, and we both turned and went in separate directions.
Upon returning from the walk, I felt better, my mind had cleared, and I felt I was ready to talk to my son again. He met me in the kitchen and we started the conversation over again. I went for the direct approach. I told him that when I ask call, text, or write him that I am actually expecting communicate with me so that I can stay connected with him with a mother son relationship. By this time his younger sibling had joined his side of his cause sending out taunts to me by singing the song, “Say Something; I’ve given up on you,” over and over--nice touch.
It was time for my eyes to roll and glare at my other son, and then explain to him that when I call, it is not necessarily the time for him to rattle off the list of things that he did that week. Rather, it is the opportunity for him to invest in us, and ask us how we are doing. For example, ask how Marianne is doing at school. Does she have any friends? Does he care about her or his other 8 siblings? It’s the opportunity to ask me how I am doing, or how dad is doing. “Its called investing in others so that you build a relationship.”
His face turned to a surprised look, his eyes rolled, and he even smacked his forehead in the “oh duh! That’s what she means,” sort of way. He looked right at me and said, “Are you serious? This is what you mean when I am supposed to call you once a week? That I need to ask about others and not just give you the list of things I did over the week?” “YES,” I firmly said. He began to pace in the kitchen. This was a huge awakening moment for him. He keep saying, “seriously?” over and over again. Finally after a few more paces he stopped and turned and said, “why didn’t you just tell me that before?”
Now it was time for me to reflect on that question. It actually smacked me in the face because after all this time I had forgotten that he was not going to pick up on the subtle things--obviously--and that the Spectrum will be forever with us. I promised him that I would be more direct as his mom/life coach when I say that he needed that support. However, I also asked him if he would show the say respect to us by asking us questions about us to invest in us so that his relationship with us, would not be taken for granted, but would be developed. Then there was silence….to which I quipped back to him, “Say something….” and he returned with, “I’ve given up on you.”