MIDWAY, Fla. (WTXL) - Today we're talking about ways can we help teens have meaningful conversations without overwhelming emotion or feelings, especially when it comes to topics that have much of the country strongly divided.
Family Therapist Jane Marks joined us in studio to help us tackle this one:
1. Begin conversations with great respect. Most civil conversations must begin in a place of mutual respect, and as parents we are role models in that kind of conversation. When we say I respect you as a teen and we respect each other, you're more often to create that kind of response pattern.
2. Practice. Make good eye contact, take turns speaking, use a lowered volume.
3. Teens speak with passion. If they begin a conversation by saying, "I am speaking from my heart", it invites positive responses and positive conversation. You're more likely to listen to the details of a story and disarm a negative response.
4. One of the biggest keys is conscience listening. You want to teach listening with the goal of trying to understand what the other person is trying to say. If you interrupt and not allow the conversation to occur, then it changes the course, so you don't want to transform any kind of story or any kind of dialogue. What you want to do is listen and you want to listen very proactively.
5. Get comfortable with being wrong on occasion. There are going to be times when you may change your position.
6. Be confident when you speak up. Don't be afraid to disagree. The tough part is that you don't want to interrupt. What you want to do is to be able to share your opinions respectfully. If you can share your opinions respectfully then you are on your way.
7. Let's talk conversation compassion. Conversation compassion is when you discuss an idea and share empathy or an understanding of where a person is coming from, you are more likely to hear the whole story and gain an understanding of what the other person is attempting to talk about, and it is less likely to be divisive. As a parent and as a teen it is important to role model earnest conversations and thoughtful conversations. That's a tough one because the tendency is to respond from emotion.
8. There are certain sentences that you can commit to memory that will help in these conversations, particularly if you start to see things becoming divisive. You might say, "I was very confused by your comment" or "I hear your explanation but can you give me some examples of what you are talking about" or you might say, "certainly we all have the right to these opinions and let me clear about whether or not I understand these opinions", or you might say, "I hadn't thought about that" and that doesn't mean I hadn't thought about what you were saying, that does not mean that you agree with it either, it just simply means that you hadn't thought about that particular position. Or you might even say, "you have a point", even though you don't agree with the point, but it is still one person's perspective. Again, all of these are designed to reduce any potential explosive responses.
9. Ask your teen, "Do you ask thoughtful questions" and "Do you make thoughtful observations"? Many people will comment on a solution as opposed to what they are observing and what they are seeing and so again this is another way to address this issue.
10. The concept of open-mindedness is a critical one. If you are able to acknowledge your own biases or sometimes even your own lack of information, that speaks volumes about personal growth and learning. Over these years we have talked about personal growth among teens but also among parents as well. I think this generation is genuinely grappling with issues that certainly older generations have not and as such each time parenting teens becomes and important issue to discuss, we know for both teens and parents we are still a continual work in progress and we certainly hope these thoughts make a difference in how you approach the coming issues throughout the course of the next several years.