Listen to the PodcastIn this episode of Today’s Teenager, I discuss five essential skills needed to communicate effectively with today’s teens.
If you only have 3 minutes, check out this brief segment where I talk about the non-obvious obstacles to being a good listener. You might be surprised at what makes it so hard to be a good listener–to teens or anyone else.
1. Be Curious
You may not be genuinely curious about your teen’s music, clothing or friends, but you are interested in them. The cliche “familiarity breeds contempt” is true. The more time we spend around others, the less curious we become about them. We “figure them out” and put them in boxes. Even though adolescence is a time of change and growth, its more efficient to relate to you teen based on your previously held assumptions about them. As you become more curious you will also become more knowledgable about who your teen is becoming. Give yourself opportunities to be surprised by your teen.
2. Ask Powerful Questions
To help in developing your curiosity, begin accumulating good questions. Most dialogue shuts down due to a lack of questions. Questions, based on genuine
- What is it about this song that you like?
- What is it about this style that most appeals to you?
- When you play this game, what’s that like for you?
- What most interests you in…?
- What do you hate most about…?
Listening is the single most effective communication skill one can have. It can be hard to listen well to teens for a variety of reasons. The time you invest in really listening to what your teen is saying (and not saying), how they’re saying it, when they’re saying it, will reap rich dividends in your relationship. Listening is an emotional endeavor more than it is an intellectual endeavor. As such, beware of the common emotional obstacles that interfere with your ability to deeply listen to your teen.
4. Be Brief
Research shows that parents speak 50% more than necessary when speaking to teens. If you are a verbal processor (like me) words help you clarify your thinking. But if you’re teen isn’t especially verbal, you could be overwhelming them and risk diluting your message.
5. Be Shrewd
Communicating with today’s teens requires savvy communication skills. Understanding when to talk, where to talk and how to talk to teens are critical in communication effectiveness. Make sure to do something, such as riding a bike, playing cards, throwing a ball around or simply going for a walk with your teen while talking.
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