When I was of age to get my driver’s licence, I would drive with my mom in the passenger seat. We did this about once a week. There were often times that the conversation would go quiet and we’d sit in comfortable silence for a while.
I remember a few such occasions that Mom would then ask me, in a friendly tone, “What are you thinking?”
(One time, I honestly answered, “Nothing. Just static,” to which mom replied by turning towards me with an incredulous look on her face…and I learned that some people, like Mom, have not experienced that. LOL)
I love her question for 2 reasons.
First, have you ever been so lost in thought that you don’t even realize that you’re thinking? It’s like you’ve been hypnotized by your thoughts, following them down one rabbit hole and then the next not realizing that they are simply thoughts, not actually reality.
I get that. So, when Mom asked me her question, she gave me an opportunity to mentally stop my “thought train”, jump off, and see where it was and where it was going.
This can be very helpful because oftentimes (not all the time) our “thought train” can bring us into some dark territory without us knowing, where we begin to think negative about ourselves, others, or life itself. This can make us feel negative, which leads to more negative thoughts and more negative emotions, creating this downward spiral and filling ourselves with stress… all while we are unaware of the process.
But when we stop the thought train and become aware of what we are thinking, we can guide our thought train to some brighter places, intentionally.
Secondly, this question provided an opportunity for connection between me and my mom. Mom could get a glimpse into what it was like to walk in my shoes. With just that question in a moment of silence, she could get a lot of information from me- what was bugging me, what I was looking forward to, what I was mentally “chewing on”, what challenges I was facing, what solutions I had come up with or was still working on, my fears, my dreams, my list of things to do, a recent accomplishment, a cherished childhood memory…and more!
Depending on my reply, Mom could provide encouragement, help me, offer suggestions, give guidance, celebrate with me, reminisce with me…connect with me.
Do you want to connect to and better understand a spouse, a parent, a child, a friend?
When you are sitting in a comfortable silence with them, I recommend you ask them this question: “What are you thinking?”
You might be surprised by what you learn about the other person...and how the opportunities to connect show themselves to you.
Here’s to conquering stress.
The Stress Experts
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