I’ll set the scene: You’re in one room, your partner or child is in the next, from which they yell, “Honey, can you…” or “Moooom, I need…” I’d finish the rest of these sentences, except I don’t know what they are, since the actual questions are largely inaudible; They usually come when you’re out of earshot, have music cranking and the A/C is on full-blast.
If I sound a little too familiar with this scenario, that’s because I am—my husband is a bigtime offender. TBH, so is my son…and he’s not even four years old. On a recent night, after announcing to my family that I’d had it up to here (here!) with all the bellowing between rooms, I decided it was time to get an expert’s opinion: Why is shouting from room to room such a natural tendency—and, ultimately, a very bad habit?
It all comes down to connection and communication, says Dr. Susan Zinn, an adolescent and adult psychotherapist and the founder of Westside Counseling Center. “We live a multi-tasking lifestyle,” she says. “It can be challenging when we work long hours and there is little to no time left to foster healthy and positive communication with each other.”
So how do you put a stop to all the shouting? Zinn recommends encouraging all family members to follow one simple rule: When you’re speaking to someone, stop whatever you’re doing and make eye contact with them.
The reason is not just to resolve an irritating behavior. It’s to model to your kids the value of face-to-face communication, ultimately demonstrating the ability to be present and self-regulatory. For instance, instead of yelling to your spouse to let them know you’re walking the dog, try walking upstairs, telling your spouse, and maybe even allowing her an opportunity to ask you any follow-up questions. (“Oh great, could you pick up milk if you walk past a store?”)
As for my own family’s efforts, it’s a work in progress. We’re ok with the eye contact, but it’s the multi-tasking we’re all trying to get a grip on. Still, as we prioritize actually looking at one another when speaking, I’ve realized that what previously felt like a time-waster (you know…walking to another room) is in fact a time-saver. (How many minutes have you wasted screaming “WHAT? at the bottom of the stairs?” We’ll wait.)