4 Tips for Getting Through to Teens
The most important factor we need to concern ourselves with when working with teens is our ability to establish trust. Failure to establish trust between ourselves and a teen places a limit right away on how influential or helpful we can be. We want to ask all the questions buzzing around in our brain, or voice all of the concerns we may have, but doing these things without trust in place first will ultimately jeopardize our ability to make the connection we want to both now and later on.
For the most part, there is a principled way we can do this. The first step is in our approach. We should not start a conversation by assuming negative intent, we should always assume positive intent, and we should always start a conversation in a way that does not draw immediate attention to a mistake or area of conflict. Not every conversation needs to start with a question, talking about something interesting you saw on TV, or something you did that day is also a good way to open dialogue. This also prevents you from putting the teen on the defense. When do you start with a question though, make sure it is an open ended one. In other words, ‘What did your teacher say about your essay in class today?’, as opposed to ‘Did your teacher say anything about your essay?’. When you ask a yes or no question, more than likely you will receive a yes or no answer.
Next you want to position your purpose for starting a conversation, something as simple as, ‘I talked with your teacher today and I wanted to share what we discussed‘. Then you should request permission, a simple ‘Hey do you have five minutes to talk about today’s meeting?’. This way you put the teen in control and prevent them from feeling like you’re operating an interrogation.
If you get permission, go ahead and continue your conversation in a non-accusatory tone. If you don’t get permission, ask when a better time would be (even though you may be thinking, hey I’m the adult here) you need to treat a teen as you would expect another adult to treat you.
Throughout the conversation alignment is important, this is done though empathy and reiterating what they say for clarification.