Today, my husband and I are enjoying a visit with our nearly fifteen-year-old grandson, Nick. We asked him the usual questions about school, sports, and his future dreams. Nick also asked his share of questions.
Of course, it doesn’t take much effort to ask questions. However, it does take some effort to listen carefully so that we are really understanding each other. When we didn’t clearly know what Nick was talking about, we asked for more specific details or we paraphrased what we thought we understood. Listening is one way we can use our lifetime of experience to bridge age gaps.
Critical Listening Skills
This morning, we moved beyond an exchange of facts and feelings. Instead, we engaged in a spirited debate for over an hour about controversial topics. One of those topics was about abortion; our grandson suggested this topic.
After Nick chose the position he would defend, we took turns taking the opposing position. Our goal was to expand our perspectives rather than to win or lose.
We agreed that we were simply taking positions. We could attack ideas, but not each other (though that wouldn’t have happened anyway). We also agreed that we had to state and defend our positions with reasonable evidence beyond personal opinion. Even though we all got invested in our positions, we conceded on some supporting points when possible.
A Rich Learning Opportunity
To successfully understand the reasoning each of us shared, we all had to use analytical (or critical) listening skills. It took a lot of concentration, but it was worth the effort.
After an hour of lively discussions, we all had a new appreciation for what different generations could bring to the table. Our grandson’s mind is quick, and he has learned some things that we’ve never considered. Our hindsight offered insights that could only be gained from a lifetime of experience. Nick said one of the things he learned was that his grandparents ‘still’ had sharp minds and knew a lot.
Purposefully using our experience, listening skills, and knowledge is one positive way to bridge the age gap and counter ageism at the same time.