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We are more likely to stay in conversation when both persons are sharing their ideas. If we always have to initiate the topic and keep the conversation going with our ideas, we soon withdraw, sometimes even from the relationship. On the other hand, if the other persons regularly control the topic and ignore our ideas, we are likely to go to someone who will show us more respect. So, too, should you follow your child's ideas at times and at other times see to it the he follows our. Because it its sometimes appropriate for one of you to carry most of the ideas, as when relating a story or giving directions, there are natural opportunities for you to hear your child's ideas and others for him to listen to yours.
Adults and children are much more likely to stay in conversations when they expect their ideas will be heard. Therefore, have several brief conversations with your child every day, conversations where there is no job or lesson to get done.The goal is to listen to his ideas and make sure he listens to some of yours. This takes very little time, usually less than a minute. It will require that each of you has a say on the topic.
In the example below, Calvin and his dad build a conversation on a topic that each partner contributes to.
Notice how the conversation flowed from the activity they did together and how each person had his say and responded meaningfully to what the other said. They shared control and respected what each person said. Each person led and followed the topic at times. If the father simply fixed the bike, Calvin would have missed a valuable opportunity to learn conversation skills and to learn how to think and talk about a new topic. Calvin could practice his old ideas and get some new ones from his father.
I think of an old friend Vern when I remember this story. Vern said:
Before I learned to take turns with Sally and realized how important conversations were for her, I thought my job was to tell her as much as I could. Now I feel much of that was wasted time and I recall Sally not liking it at all. Waiting for Sally to say something was very hard at first. I had so many ideas about what she should be saying that I had to slow down, be quiet and find out what she really wanted to talk about.
I tried your ping-pong idea and then I came up with idea of my own. I kept the image of a pendulum in my mind. When I talked, the pendulum ball was with me, and then when I waited, the ball went to Sally, then it came back to me. With the goal of keeping the pendulum moving, I tried not to hold onto it by saying too much. Whenever the pendulum in my mind was stuck on my side, I stopped talking and let it go. When the pendulum was stuck on Sally's side I silently signaled her to give me a turn or gently took a turn. Keeping the pendulum swings in mind, I could visualize how important it was that each of us take our turn and then move on.
TRY THINKING OF A PENDULUM IN YOUR CONVERSATIONS AND SEE IF YOU CAN GET YOUR CONVERSATIONS SWING MORE EASILY BACK AND FORTH.