My dad can shoot the shit for hours with strangers at Starbucks about pretty much any topic. Why blonde roast is better than French roast. He can have a full on conversation with the TV screen during a basketball game. Why the hell did you do that, you idiot?! He can even carry on a convo with the dog. Does Jackson want a W-A-L-K? But sometimes I call on the phone hoping to talk about my latest existential crisis and our conversation consists of: Hi honey. How are you? Here’s your mother.
Now, don’t misunderstand: I have a close relationship with my father. He’s always been really involved in my life. But sometimes, if I’m not being strategic, our convos are just really brief. Like two sentences brief. When he met my boyfriend for the first time, the two of them talked for an hour non-stop about sports. I felt dizzy, hearing names and stats volley back and forth between them like a tennis ball at the U.S. Open. (The U.S. Open is a tennis match, right? I don’t understand these things. My hand-eye coordination is too embarrassing to play tennis.) Sadly, I’m never going to want to talk about sports with either of them, so they can have at it. And since that’s the case, I have to make a conscious effort to connect with my dad about things they don’t talk about on Sports Center. Here are the tactics I use when I want to have deep convos with my dad and hopefully you can use them to facilitate some good talks with your father too!
1. Start with an issue you want advice about. I have yet to meet a man who doesn’t like to fix things — literally and figuratively. This includes my dad. In order to come at our deep convo sideways, I reel him in by asking for help with something. Ex: “Dad, I need to roll over my IRA to a 401K, do you think I should choose an aggressive plan or a more moderate one?” Once he’s answered, and feels validated for “fixing” something for me, I can move on to the heavier stuff, like, “Can we plan that trip to Israel to meet the family you didn’t know you had until five years ago?”
2. Make an activity the main event. When I was little, my dad used to drive me to school and on the way, he’d take me for a chocolate croissant at the local Boulangerie. This was our time to talk. Since I’m not eight and have long since passed 3rd grade, I have to come up with other activities that give dad and I an excuse to chat. My father is really athletic, so I suggest things like hiking or jogging followed by coffee, since we both love exercise and caffeine. I find that being engaged in activity takes the pressure off to Talk with a capital T and the conversation flows more naturally. We had one of our best talks ever while strolling along the beach together.
3. Just be open to talking, even if it happens at random times. Maybe you called asking for advice in order to get to the real conversation, or maybe you really did just want to ask a question about re-potting your plant. But hey, if a phone call about how to water a cactus turns into an hour-long talk about philosophy and life after death, just go with it! Likewise, if your dad reaches out to you, reach back. My dad seems to be fond of calling me for serious chats in the middle of the work day. I used to get annoyed and be like, Dad, you know I can’t talk, I’m working. But I realized that it’s much more fruitful to say, ‘Sup, Pops?
4. Be direct. You shouldn’t be afraid to ask your dad straightforward questions. If you want to know something, ask. Men often communicate in a much more direct way, so you may have to clue him into the fact that you want to have a serious conversation in the first place. Sounds overly simplistic, but you’d be surprised how many times your dad isn’t picking up on your subtle hints that you want to chat.
5. Timing is everything. It’s important that you make sure it’s a good time for him to talk. Like, if he’s watching the playoffs, everything you say is going to sound like white noise to him. Not a good time. Make sure he’s not distracted by something else more pressing when you go in for the convo.
6. Ditch mom. I love my mom, but when she’s in the room, my dad hangs back and lets her do most of the talking. This is great when we’re deciding where to go for dinner, and not so great if I’m trying to get deep with dad. See if you can ditch your mom (or your dad’s SO) for a bit (without hurting anyone’s feelings) so you can get your much-needed alone time with dad, and hopefully, the deep convo you’ve been striving for.
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