The purpose of this essay is to describe an argument I have had with someone and relate it to communications. More specifically it will be related to the listening aspect of communication. This essay will inform and discuss how listening plays a major role in everyday live. It will also provide examples on how certain situations can be avoided or made easier by listening more effectively. Throughout the story there will be pauses where concepts ad ideas of listening will be explored.
It was a typical Monday evening. My mom was cooking, my brother was in his room playing video games, and my stepdad was helping my stepbrothers with their homework. I was on the computer in the living room writing an essay on western civilization. My stepdad had asked me how much longer I would be on the computer because he wanted to check something on eBay. I responded by saying that I wasn’t sure because it was a tough subject for me and I had only just began. He said that that was alright. At this point I had assumed he had listened to me and fully understood exactly what I meant.
As I continued typing away at my paper, my stepdad asked me again how much longer I would be. At this time I understood that he had merely heard what I said and that he did not even acknowledge what I said before. I told him again that I was not sure because my paper needed to be finished the next day and I wanted it to be written well. He responded by saying, “Well, hurry up I need to use it.” This made me slightly annoyed. I had known that he was preoccupied with himself and did not have any sort of empathy toward me and what I needed to do. This was a matter of something he “wanted” to do and something I “needed” to do. This second set of repeated questioning could have been avoided if he had listened to what I said the first time. Instead, he felt it to be much better that he pretended to listen. The concept of pretending to listen is called pseudolistening and my stepdad was the king of pseudolistening this particular night.
This may seem like something stupid to argue over, but the questioning became constant. Every ten minutes or so, for about an hour, I was asked how much longer I was going to be on the computer. I became more and more frustrated every time I was asked this question. The final time I was asked I responded angrily by saying, “Will you shut up already!? I already told you I’m not sure when I’ll be done!!!” I didn’t think too much of what I said because it sort of slipped out. At this point my stepdad finally listened to what I said. Only, I had wished he hadn’t. He responded in a way one would if he had just received the worst insult of his life. I thought he was being overdramatic about what I had said. Maybe if he had remembered that I was writing an important essay, this situation could have been avoided because he wouldn’t have asked the same question over and over again and I would not have been so annoyed.
As my stepdad stormed into the living room, he began shouting and swearing. I’m not the type of person that sits down to take a verbal beating. I get more mad when I get yelled at which makes me say things that I shouldn’t. Before he even came in the room I was wasn’t even mad, I was only annoyed. My stepdad continued yelling and cursing as I sat there yelling back. I understood what respect was and chose not to say a few things I felt… for now. Every time I tried to get a word in he told me to shut up and started talking about how he does everything in the house and that I don’t do anything. This is the concept of monopolizing. The only thing he could talk about was himself and how he does everything. This was obviously a lie; my mom did things around this just as much, if not more than him. Not to mention what he was saying had nothing to do with the original argument. Once he finally let me say something he would only listen for certain parts of what I was saying and then attacked me, verbally, with whatever I said. This is a combination of two concepts: selective listening and ambushing. He was only listening to parts of what I said (selective) and then attacked me (ambushing). I was not surprised when he did these two things because they are both signature moves of his.
Later on in the argument he started telling me everything that I needed to do around the house and told me that I should stop doing my homework because helping around the house was more important to him than my grades. He was not listening defensively because no one ever speaks poorly about him…. So I caught him way off guard when I screamed,” You’re not my father! Stop telling me what to do!” This is one of the worse things to say to any step-parent. I learned that the hard way. Needless to say, this got him even more angry. At this point in time I had lost most of my respect for him and decided to get myself in more trouble. This was not one of my more intelligent decisions.
My stepdad started ranting on and on about how he “rules the world” so I began listening critically. This is when a person listens to form an opinion. The opinion I formed was not a positive opinion about him at all. I decided that he was a very self-centered individual who only cared about himself. I come to this opinion because he kept using “I-language” and would not stop talking about himself.
For the most part I understood his perspective because he said it about thirty times a minute. If I didn’t, I would ask him, very sarcastically, to paraphrase so that I understood it more clearly. Needless to say I was not giving up on this stupid argument because it was exactly that, stupid. I wanted to keep going on with it to show him that I didn’t care about what he had to say so I eventually stopped talking and continued writing my paper. In the meantime I was pseudolistening. This is when you pretend to listen to the other person talking and make it seem like you care. I responded every thirty seconds or so with a, “yep”, “uh-huh”, “don’t care”, “what?” This just kept getting him more mad because I was being obvious about it. The words I used could also be called minimal encouragers. These are words you say or things you do that make a person seem like they’re interested.
Once he realized I didn’t care, he cooled down only to arrive back five minutes later even more angry because I wasn’t listening. Because I was caught off guard, I became angry again. At this point I decided to walk away. This got my stepdad more angry, and when he got more angry, I got more angry. It was a vicious circle. As I walked slowly up the stairs to my room we continued to yell at each other. When I finally got to my room I slammed the door. He stopped yelling at me for the rest of the night.
About five minutes after I went into my room, my mom came in crying because we weren’t getting along. I felt really bad and listened to what my mom had to say. I listened to her in a relational manner. I recognized what she was going through and it made me realize there was a lot I didn’t know. After my mom and I talked, I walked back down stairs and finished typing my paper. I then went up to my room, talked to my mom for a while and went to bed. I was informed that I would be grounded for three months because I was very disrespectful throughout the argument.
This argument very well could have been prevented. Had my stepdad understood that I needed to get that paper done, he would not have kept asking me. The whole argument could have been ended several times too. However, my stepdad and I both feel the need to get the last word in which kept the argument going. As far as I’m concerned, I won that argument because I got to finish my paper and my stepdad never ended up using the computer that night.