How to Teach Your Teen the Art of Face-to-Face Connections
Here’s a question for you to ponder: Are we as parents doing all we can to prepare our teens for high school, college or the workplace?
Are we doing all we can to best support the next generation so they can function in the best way possible in the real world? Are we supporting the next generation by way of offering them pivotal life skills? What I’m talking about is developing face-to-face communication skills, in an age where it is becoming a lost art.
We are all experiencing a unique time in history, no doubt about it. We are also searching to create a new sense of normalcy as well. It’s more about physical distancing than social distancing. We need to connect and interact socially now more than ever. And when it’s safe to connect face-to-face, that’s even better!
Here are some tips on how to teach your teens the art of face-to-face interaction and become better communicators.
Have mutually beneficial conversations
I will make a basic assumption that we all like to be understood. One main factor to really understanding someone is by listening. Some quick tips on how to fully engage are to ask clarifying questions. It is always OK to ask questions of anyone you are talking with, such as, “I really want to understand your point, would you mind saying it again for me?” Or perhaps you can ask them to rephrase it in a different way so that you understand. Instead of offering (pretend) nods of understanding, ask for clarity! Don’t interrupt, listen more and talk less. It’s easy to talk. When we talk, we are sharing what we already know, but when you truly listen, you may learn something.
One quick tip I’ve used with teens to work on listening skills is creating a for-fun mock TV or radio interview. I have my clients create a short list of three questions to ask, but I always stress one key point to them. I emphasize for them to listen to the answers very carefully instead of thinking about the next question to ask on their list. This small adjustment tends to bring big results. By doing this, you truly put a focus on actively listening to someone and this small habit can be applied to real-life job interviews.
How to have hard conversations
Most of us, not just today’s youth, will inevitably need to have a challenging or difficult conversation with someone, whether it’s with a parent, teacher, coach, manager, co-worker or boyfriend/girlfriend. The easy way out is to run for the hills, but we should all have the skills to have these, as well as many other face-to-face conversations.
Strive for having these types of hard, tough or challenging conversations in person. It allows for the natural give and take that a conversation should have. Sending a quick e-mail, text or any other message over social media will lead to more drama than you need. Online dialogue rarely carries the same intent and tone you intended because it’s only a one-way communication.
In a world of never-ending screen time, texting, apps and social media, many of today’s youth do not have the skills or habits to talk with someone face-to-face. When you don’t communicate face-to-face, the intent is lost, spirit and tone are gone and miscommunication occurs (which can easily be alleviated).
A few quick tips I use for guiding others on how to have a challenging conversation are:
There should be only one topic per “challenging” conversation. Don’t allow yourself or the other person to stray off the one key topic you want to discuss. If the other person takes you off-topic, stay calm and simply state you would like to only discuss “X” today and perhaps, you could discuss “Y” in a few days. Another tip, which may seem obvious but at times can be hard to do, is to stay neutral. Maintain a neutral and calm voice even if the other person escalates or gets emotional. If either of you recognizes you are getting overheated, take a time out and ask this, “I see we are both getting too emotional to share a conversation that will be productive, how about we regroup tomorrow when we both are in a better headspace and ultimately get the desired outcome we both want, sound OK?”
There’s so much to gain, and at the same time so much to lose, if you don’t have real face-to-face conversations, regardless of the topic. If you enter into every conversation with the mindset of wanting to learn at least one new thing, it will help you focus on listening more and talking less. Clearly, it depends on the nature of the conversation you are having but listening more really does open a new level of communication. When you apply some of the tips above, it will not only help you in your academic life but also within your family sphere, your relationships and, of course, on the job.
Matt Crevin, founder of Talk Shop, is a single dad with two boys living in the Seattle , WA area. He launched Talk Shop in 2019 to deliver pivotal interpersonal communication skills to today’s youth. The main focus of Talk Shop is to guide today’s youth to develop and improve the life skill of face-to-face communications. For more information, email Matt at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.talkshop.company