My Grandpa Leon is possibly the most negative person I know. Even though I love him, we are different from one another in almost every way. I am calm, organized, and quiet; my grandpa is boisterous, loud, and chaotic, with difficulty focusing and controlling his emotions. I prefer to live more simply and modestly; he loves to spend money on grand yet unnecessary things. We are both intelligent, but in different ways: I love learning about people, but he has been a bus mechanic his whole life, with an inventive flair and a knack for plenty of other complicated things such as electrical circuits.
Whereas these are all basic ways that my grandpa and I are different from each other, the biggest difference between us is our outlooks on life. While I may not be the most bubbly or high-spirited person on the outside, I tend to have a positive perspective about my life. I prefer to keep my problems to myself rather than complaining about them and I try to be cheerful around others to help them be happy as well. My Grandpa Leon, however, takes any opportunity (and honestly, even when he does not have the opportunity) to criticize someone or grumble about something else, usually loudly and filled with vulgarity.
Because most of the things he says are inappropriate, rude, and merely uncalled for, it can be exhausting to hold a conversation with him and my family has developed a tendency to ignore him when he talks. Rather than allow him to ruin our times spent together, we choose to roll our eyes and act like he is not speaking or simply tell him to be quiet. For this project, I decided to spend time talking to my Grandpa Leon and empathize with him by actually listening to the things he complained about, a much different approach to the way I or anyone else usually interacts with him.
After having conversations with my grandfather in which I was intentional about empathizing with him, I have a better understanding of why he has the negative outlook that he does and what I can do to be a positive influence in his life. The first attempt I made to empathize with my Grandpa Leon was at my sister’s sixteenth birthday party. I chose this occasion because | knew that even though it was was supposed to be a lighthearted time, he would not have many positive things to say.
My expectations were not let down when the first thing Grandpa said upon arriving and seeing me was that it sucked that I had to drive home from Springfield just for my sister’s birthday. For the remainder of the party, I made a point to listen to everything he said and tried to empathize with his negative comments. Instead of brushing off his complaints like usual, I stopped and asked my grandpa questions about his problems or encouraged him to explain why he felt the way he did.
This endeavor went well, and I decided to repeat it when I was at home the next weekend for Easter. Since we did not have a family gathering that weekend, I asked him to go eat at a restaurant with me. My grandpa was so happy I wanted to do something with him that he asked my grandma and my boyfriend, Eric, to come as well. The four of us went out to lunch and we were able to converse in a more intimate way than we had at my sister’s party. Throughout our conversations, I noticed some common themes that came up.
There were plenty of things here and there than Grandpa had something bad to say about, such as his food or the table we were sitting at, but his favorite things to complain about included his work, his health, his daughters, and his wife (my grandma. ) From a lot of the things he said, I inferred that he felt unappreciated because my mom and her sisters only come to him when they need something. At work, he was mostly irritated with his coworkers’ unintelligence and pitiful work ethics.
In addition, it bothered him that there are some things he can not do as well anymore since he is getting older. He also made several comments that made me concerned that he might be depressed, such as “I | might as well die. ” I tried to ensure him that even if it seemed like nobody loved him, I definitely did—but he did not need me to tell him this because he already knew. In fact, the only topic that made Grandpa happy to discuss was me and his other grandchildren. Because my boyfriend, Eric, came along with me to lunch, I observed something interesting happening while we talked.
Although the whole point of our meeting up was so that I could empathize with my grandpa, I noticed that Eric was doing a far better job than I was, and without trying. While I asked Grandpa questions about his problems and tried to reply with something positive he could think of instead, Eric simply smiled or laughed at the things Grandpa said. His reactions were not awkward or uncomfortable; Eric was showing my grandpa that he was listening to what he said and that he either agreed or genuinely cared about what he was saying.
Furthermore, it helped that Eric was able to comprehend and give feedback about my grandpa’s projects at work, whereas I do not understand anything about bus mechanics and do not make the slightest attempt to appreciate when he talks about it. When our conversation was over, I told Eric that he was much better at talking to Grandpa Leon than my family and me. Eric summarized well what I needed to learn from this project: “He just wants someone to listen to him. ” Hearing this, as well as all the things Grandpa said, I came to a realization about why he might act the way he does.
The man is simply yearning for attention, especially from his family. He is right when he talks about how my grandma spends more time at her job or with her work friends than with him, and when he complains that my mom and aunts do not come to him unless they need him to fix something. Our typical response of ignoring Grandpa when he talks seemed so uncaring after observing Eric listen to his rants so patiently and effortlessly. Before attempting to empathize with my grandpa for this project, I already knew that he has not had the smoothest life experiences up to this point. I knew that rowing up, his family was poor and his parents were abusive.
Additionally, I knew that my “grandma” was actually his third wife and that my mother’s biological mother was abusive to her family as well. Furthermore, when I was eight years old one of my aunts (his teenage daughter) was killed by a classmate, sending him into a major case of depression for a few years. All these things combined, I knew, were parts of the reason my grandpa has a greatly negative attitude, but I did not think they justified his behavior since my mom and the rest of her family had recovered and carried on pretty well.
After our conversations, however, I have a better understanding of why my grandpa reflects the negativity in his life through the way he talks and acts around others. Although my mom and her sisters experienced the same rough patches of life that he did, they grew up and made their own families to love and support. Along Grandpa’s side, my grandma had to go through the pain of losing a child to a murderer, but she has a great community of school teachers she works with to take her mind off that trauma. My grandpa’s family chose to move on without him, and he is simply longing for someone to show him some love.
When his tactics for receiving attention (being obnoxiously negative and difficult) are not effective, he desperately tries to amplify them even further. While retreating even further is how my family and I react to his efforts, I might have found through this project a process that would be more beneficial for everyone. Since Grandpa’s attitude is rather unpleasant to be around, my family chooses to ignore him when he spouts nothing but negativity. Previously, I think our expectation was that when he wanted us to give him the attention he needs, he would stop being so pessimistic and try to have normal conversations with us.
After this project, however, I have realized that there really is no reason to wait. By taking the initiative on two separate occasions to pay attention to my Grandpa Leon when he talked, I could already see differences in his behavior. He had plenty of negative things to say at my sister’s birthday party and at the restaurant we went to, but he was calmer and less outspoken about it than usual. I think the reason for that was that I was talking with him the whole time, giving my undivided attention.
Furthermore, he felt appreciated when Eric actually listened to what he had to say and he felt loved by our company. If I could see these small changes in Grandpa’s demeanor through two conversations, I can only imagine how his entire outlook on life might change if my whole family decided to give him the attention he deserves rather than waiting for him to change his outlook first. Grandpa Leon continues to be the person in my family who is most unlike me. He is always unhappy about something and wants everyone to know it, while I am cheerful about most things and want others to feel the same way.
Even though my family’s custom is to disregard my grandpa and the disagreeable atmosphere he brings with him, I have learned from this experience and through the example of my boyfriend that paying attention to my grandpa and empathizing with what he says is a far better approach to brightening his outlook. After having conversations with my Grandpa Leon in which I was intentional about empathizing with him, I have a better understanding of why he has the negative perspective that he does, and I plan to spend more time listening carefully what he has to say in order to bring some positivity into his life.