FAMILY: Daughter reads her email while we talk on phone
Article #: 262356
My daughter lives out of the U.S. with her Air Force husband. We've always been close, and she calls several times a week. I've noticed for some time that when I finish speaking, there's silence, and when I ask, "Are you there?" she assures me she's listening. I've had a feeling she's reading her emails and looking up stuff online when we chat. Today, I was speaking, and she suddenly shouted to her husband in the other room, "Jack! There's an email here for you from So-and So!" and I knew she was reading emails. It's kind of embarrassing to me that what I'm saying is so boring she reads stuff on the computer while we talk. Is there some polite way to mention that to her? I know their phone is right by the computer, but it still seems kind of rude for her to be doing that as we talk. Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!
Yes, it feels rude for your daughter to be giving you her divided attention, however it is also a signal to you that the frequency or length of your phone conversations may be excessive. Even though you appreciate the fact that she calls several times a week, perhaps cutting back to once a week would give both of you more to talk about.
Additionally (or alternatively), you may want to consider shortening the number of minutes you remain on the phone so that the conversation doesn't drift into the endless (boring!) minutiae of daily existence but has a higher news value. You could keep a sort of log between calls of interesting things to tell your daughter, then terminate the conversation yourself after 5 or 10 minutes. Your daughter probably feels that she is relieving your loneliness by frequent calls, but might actually feel relief if you were so busy that you did not have quite so much time to chat. "I'm going to the concert with R. in a few minutes..." "I won't be home tomorrow night, so let's talk on Friday..." "I've got the girls over for cards tonight, so let's skip our Tuesday call! Love you!"
Finally, try to avoid long soliloquies where you talk on and on about yourself or relate interminable anecdotes and all she is required to do is murmur "uh-huh" from time to time. Redirect the conversation to make her an equal partner by passing the chat back to her: "What do you think?" "What did you decide to do about...?" "You mentioned last time that... what happened after that?" "Did Jack hear any more about...?" Use follow-up questions to keep her talking: "Then what happened?" "How did that make you feel?" "Why did he do that?"
You are so lucky to have a daughter who has remained close despite marriage and geographical distance! Rather than addressing her lapses in attention as "rudeness," try some of these suggestions and see if both of you end up more engaged in your conversations! Good luck!