The ‘Shoosh’ Factor

By Lisa Barr

I was at a benefit this weekend for a cause that truly means a lot to both my family and me. There was the usual fare of cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, speakers, AND great convo — and that was the problem — my problem.

Coming up from behind me was a “Shoosh-er” — an actual guy holding a sign that read “Shoosh” — to tell all the talkers in the crowd to be quiet while the lecturer was speaking. I got in trouble twice. Part of me was embarrassed, and the other part made me reflect on the Shoosh itself.

My entire life I always got into trouble for talking in school. I went to a Jewish Day School growing up and I remember distinctly in sixth grade when one of the teachers, a rabbi, threw an actual book at me from across the room to Shoosh me.

I dodged and it hit someone else in the head (another story). The irony of being a Big Talker is that I went into writing (the quietest of all journalism fields) and not say, into Broadcast Journalism. A further irony is when one of my daughters came home from school and said that I would “hear” from her teacher — because she talked too much in class.

How do I give my daughter a consequence when I’ve never NOT been shooshed? How do I give her a consequence when I secretly and overtly hate the Shoosh?

Probably my worst Shoosh-ing of all comes from my hubby during anything TV-sports related, or if there is an issue that he doesn’t want to discuss. This is what I call the Ignore Shoosh, which usually takes the form of a Clicker turning the volume up higher — or a “We’ve talked about this before, honey. Do we really have to go there again?”

Women need to talk about IT. Men just need IT to go away. If IT is controversial, it simply can’t be Shoosh-ed.


Years ago, during my first marriage — I always felt I was never heard. And ironically, I lost my voice for seven straight months. Literally, nothing came out. I knew it was physical, but I truly believe there was a psychological element to it.

It is so important — especially for women — to be Heard, Acknowledged and Seen. When these three line items are crossed-out — from what I’ve seen in marriages — it truly contributes to the demise of the relationship.

A woman feels resentful … the anger sets in, and then a woman begins to separate herself.

When our children are young — especially Moms — have a lot of control. And then somewhere along the line — let’s just call it 12 -13 — Selective Hearing sets in, and then the Total Ignore — the SHOOSH on Steroids.

Having teenagers, I feel like I’m cut off a lot. An eye roll, or an Ohmygod, there SHE goes again … or We’ve heard this, Mommy, 10 times already.

And … should I dare ask: So … how was your night — tell me about it. I’ll be SHOOSHed with I’m so tired, Mommy. Can we just talk about it tomorrow?... Or, the hateful Chore SHOOSH: Okay, Mommy, I’ll clean my room, but can you shut my door? (meaning, Get out and leave me alone with my laptop of friends — People I REALLY want to talk to).

How do we break through this impasse? How can we really be heard without having to yell it or demand it, or get pissed off about being ignored WITHIN our own family?


For me, this is a major work-in-progress.


Okay, let’s start with The Husband:


1. WAIT, even if it kills you, if he is watching sports to discuss any details (kids, house, cleaning, errands, dinner plans) at Half-Time or at a commercial. You will NEVER be heard during a game.


2. If you are having a fight — only bring up your Top Two or Three points. After that, you lost the battle. He will NOT hear you. A man is not like a woman who can retain an entire manifesto of point-by-point. Even if you have a laundry list of things you are angry at — only bring up the Leaders … the Contenders will have to wait, or let ’em go …


3. Don’t fight in your bedroom. It will turn the bed into an island of silence and separation. The worst kind of Marital Shoosh.


4. Discuss issues that are really important to you ONLY when you have his full attention — leaving no chance at receiving a Half-Assed SHOOSH. Meaning, only talk when there is no TV going. No kids in the background. No Fantasy Football glances at his phone while you’re speaking. Don’t settle for less. Step outside your house if you have to. Go for a walk. You will have his attention if there are no distractions. You will then walk away feeling satisfied.


Now for the Kids:


1. Don’t scream from Downstairs to get them to do something Upstairs (aka: make their bed, clean their room). This requires eye contact. (I’m working on this too).


2. Keep an even tone. If I tell one of my daughters: “Don’t forget your backpack” — many times, she will respond defensively, “Why are you screaming at me?” Teenagers hear their parents’ voices decibals higher than reality. (It’s a 13 -17 year-old brain malfunction that eventually goes away on its own).


3. Finding out the basics of what is going on in their daily life … I never ask, So how was school? There are only three answers (fine, boring, okay). In order to nip this SHOOSH in the butt, I say instead: Did anything funny happen in Spanish? (ie. I know one of my daughters has a lot of jokesters in that class). When they were in elementary school, I would ask, So how was recess? The killer question that I had to pull from my repertoire was, So who did you sit with at lunch? For some reason, this is an annoying question and it feels accusatory (social probing) rather than interested. They key to finding out answers to your questions — is to never take the “general” route. 
Find something specific that has interest to them, and you will not be ignored.
I fight ‘The Shoosh Factor’ on a daily basis, and I’m always looking for ways around it. My husband knows that I need to communicate above all else … and it’s something he’s really learned to do (it’s not in his nature) because it makes ME happy, and therefore, in turn, it makes US  happy. My daughters when they do listen or share … always get HUGE positive reinforcement from me. (I know, with teenagers, a “crumb” thrown your way feels like a loaf of bread …)


When all else fails … Collect $200 and go directly to your girlfriends. That’s the beauty of GIRL Bonding. It is the ONLY game in town in which a Shoosh is non-existent. You can tell the same story 10 different ways on 10 consecutive days — you can exaggerate, you can repeat yourself — and women being women will ALWAYS make you feel heard.
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