In preparing for this listening exercise, I immediately thought to interview my mom because I figured I would be more comfortable with her, the interview would be easy, and I could possibly learn something new about her. I was half right- I learned a few new things about her but, it was a little uncomfortable and not at all easy.
It is Sunday night around 8:00 and we just finished dinner at my parent’s house. A while ago I asked my mom, Debby, if I could interview her about age and without hesitation, she agreed. I reexplained to her the purpose of the interview and went over the agent/target ADRESSING model we learned in class. In this instance, I am the Agent because I am 35 years old and Debby is the target at age 66. To prepare for our conversation, I wrote out 7 questions I could ask about her experiences after turning 65, including thoughts about health insurance, personal goals and worries, and how she views herself at this age. Sitting in the living room by the electric fireplace, we began the interview at 8:10.
Overall, I think I was a better listener than I have been in the past and I really learned new things about my mom that I may not have if I didn’t learn new listening skills like recognizing when I am too tired to listen, being a congruent listener, and not letting distractions in the way of my listening. I began the interview with “what worries or anxieties do you have that you didn’t before turning 65”. Debby had a hard time with this question at first- I could tell because of her laughing response of “any that I didn’t have 2 years ago” meaning when she went from agent to target status. I modified the question to having any worries specific to her age, or even worries that she may have had 30 years ago that she still carries now. This lead to my mom opening up about having the same level of anxiety and worry her whole life, no more and no less. The deeper she dug into the question, I noticed a couple of verbal and non-verbal cues from my mom that I never noticed before- her voice got louder the more she elaborated on her answers and I caught her twitching her leg a few times which may have been a sign that she was a bit uncomfortable. I moved onto the second question, “do you feel you have accomplished all you want in life?” Debby’s answer was more about her profession than herself at first. She has been doing hair for over 40 years and has maintained a very loyal clientele and most of her ladies are in their 80’s and 90’s. She answered that she was lucky to be able to do for these ladies and give back but if she had it all to do again she wasn’t sure if she would-it was implied that it was too late for her to start over. I asked Debby a couple of questions that were more general related to age like her thoughts on Medicare and I noticed her demeanor changed. Her voice got steadier and she was very clear on her answer that healthcare could be better and cheaper and that prescription drug coverage could be a lot better .
As a person working in healthcare, I am fortunate to be able to have very low cost health insurance with great benefits. I realize that not everyone is able to access great affordable healthcare but hearing about it and the fact that some can’t even afford the medication they need to live gave me a greater sense of empathy. I asked couple questions that were more personal. When she was answering, I noticed with the more personal questions, Debby’s tone of voice would change, she would start to stare off into the distance, and look for validation on some of her thoughts. I was polite to nod my head and state an agreement like “ok” or “uh-huh” but I never gave my input or advice on the situation. Comment by Herrera, Maribeliza: This is where I had to use my “so do you mean” skill to get Debby to open up about her fears . this gave me awareness that just because you turn a certain age, you don’t rid or develop age related fears and anxieties. Comment by Herrera, Maribeliza: I had to step back here and lay off my judgement. I thought, why couldn’t she start over at this stage in her life. My mind wandered for a bit about this and then I brought myself back into the present moment.
My last question was “when you wake in the morning or go look in the mirror, is the person you feel like or see, different than you imagine in your head”. Debby said that she had heard from other people that when they get older and see themselves in the mirror, they think “who is that” because they don’t look as old as they feel. I asked her if she felt the same way and her response brought tears to my eyes. I won’t share the response but I felt a great deal of empathy at that moment and had no judgement. My heart was completely open and all I could do was sit and listen. Comment by Herrera, Maribeliza: At this question, I became very aware of what a target goes through because of their age.
I think I did well on my listening skills and have come a long way since the beginning of the quarter. If I were in a situation like I was when asking my mom that last question, I usually would try to give advice, or disagree with the way the person felt. This time I sat and absorbed all that was being said.
I hold target membership in 3 categories- gender, social class, and ethnicity. I think that being aware of the way I have been treated because of these ranks have built me to be accepting and empathetic for the most part. I wanted to interview someone in the target rank for age because even though I hold agent rank status in the age category, I didn’t see myself have privilege because of it, but after this interview, I realize I do. I am able to have great affordable healthcare because of my job, I am able to seek out new opportunities and accomplish goals because I am still young. Because I come from a working class family, I always had to work for the things I wanted in life, even small luxuries. I think I developed a false sense of dislike to immigrants because it seemed like they didn’t have to work hard for what they wanted, it was just being handed to them. I also wasn’t clear on why they couldn’t learn English. After interviewing an immigrant and hearing from other class members, I was able to come to a new understanding of how hard it was to even come to the US never mind trying to figure out how to survive. I now understand how lucky I have been and have a new sense of empathy and compassion towards others.
I think this paper was more difficult for me to write than the first paper. I am not sure if it was because of the rank membership I chose or if it was because I was not fully aware of my privilege. I think I practiced empathy well and was able to improve my listening skills. Going forward, I will be more patient and empathetic. I am going to keep thinking of the advantages I have in life because of the agent status I hold and focus on how I can help those who are the targets. On the flip side, I hold target membership in a couple categories and being aware of this, I am going to try and change the behaviors of others who hold agency over me. I had a situation in the workplace a few months ago that I now realize, could have been gender and race related. If I knew then what I know now, I think I would have handled that situation a lot differently. I move forward making a promise to myself that I will never allow that to happen to me again.