3 Ways to Kill Communication With Your Teenager: Part 3

In this short series on how to kill communication with teenagers, we have looked at how parents sabotage their own efforts to establish and maintain open and healthy communication patterns with their teenagers- sometimes without even knowing they’re doing it. You can read previous posts here and here.

So far we discussed how ‘invalidating’ a teenager and his/her feelings will damage communication, and in the second post we explored how ‘overreacting’  can create some real communication hurdles. This brings us to the third way parents often undermine their chances for open communication with their teenager; ‘Door Slammers.’

Most conversations about teenagers and door slamming refer to mood swings, adolescent temper tantrums, and the loud banging of doors at the end of arguments. While such activities do make communication hard, this is not the issue being discussed here.

This post is about how adults slam conversational doors by the way they speak to young people.

Inviting Conversation – Door Openers

If you want someone to join you in an activity it helps if you invite them, doesn’t it? Be it a party, a game of sport, a meal, or a night out, the best way to get people to join you is to invite them. The same is true of conversation. When you want someone to talk to you it is good to invite them – teenagers included.

Invitations to conversations tend to happen spontaneously, during the conversation itself. By using the right types of words or phrases you communicate to the other person you are interested in hearing and discussing more about the topic at hand. These invitations are sometimes referred to as ‘door-openers’ because they encourage and enable the other person to enter into the conversation.

Conversational door-openers are words and phrases that convey a desire to know more while providing the opportunity for the other person to enter further into the conversation. Conversational door-openers are not threatening, judgemental, or dismissive. The hearer of the invitation is made to feel that they can share their thoughts or ideas without fear of criticism, disrespect, or humiliation. Door-opening phrases are also open-ended, that is they are questions or comments that invite more than one-word responses.

Some examples of ‘door-openers’ in conversations are;

  • “Tell me more.”
  • “Interesting!”
  • “What do you think?”
  • “I’d like to hear more about it.”
  • “Sounds like you’ve got something to say about this.”
  • “This seems like something important to you.”
  • “Do you know what that means?”
  • “That’s a good question.”
  • “What would you like to see happen?”
  • “How would you resolve this?”
  • “What is difficult about this?”

Killing Conversation – Door Slammers

Hopefully by now the term ‘door slammers’ now has a more obvious meaning in relation to communicating. Conversational door slamming is the opposite of door opening (just for those who may have missed the connection).

Door slamming comments are those comments that convey to the other person you have no desire to continue the conversation or you do not respect the contribution they have to make. Sometimes we use them intentionally to avoid having a conversation, other times we use door slamming comments out or tiredness or frustration.

Whatever the reason, the effects will always be the same. The person who receives these words will feel like you do not want to talk with them about whatever the topic is. In isolation this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However when adults consistently use such phrases with young people they create in the young person a belief that their opinions, problems, and questions are not important.

Door slammer comments are those that convey disrespect, criticism, or condescension to the hearer.  Some examples of conversational door slammers are;

  • “You are too young to understand.”
  • “If you say that again, I’ll…”
  • “That’s none of your business.”
  • “I don’t have time for this.”
  • “I don’t care what your friends are doing!”
  • “Don’t ask such silly questions”
  • “You don’t need to know about that.”
  • “Don’t come to me if you mess up.”
  • “Not now I’m too busy.”
  • “Why are you bothering me with this?”
  • “Don’t be so stupid.”

As parents there are times when we are tired or stressed and not in a good place to have a significant conversation. So it can be tempting to slam the door shut on the discussion before it starts. The problem is when we do that our kids don’t hear that we are tired or stressed, they hear that what they had to say was not important.

If you are not feeling up to having a conversation with your teenager make sure that you communicate you are interested and want to hear what they have to say, but you will be more able to take it in at another time. If you do this make sure you follow up at a later time or it will just sound like you are fobbing them off.

Adults also fall into the trap of thinking that because a teenager’s point of view sounds silly that the teenager is somehow being deliberately silly. But while teenage opinions may sound silly to adults, to a teenager they may be very serious and significant thoughts. As adults we don’t know until we take the time to find out more. If you just assume the teen is being silly and slam the door on the conversation you risk doing significant damage to your relationship with them.

Moving Forward

So there you have 3 ways to kill communication with teenagers. I assure you that if you ‘invalidate’, ‘overreact’, and conversationally ‘door slam’ your teenagers, you will effectively kill off any chance of having healthy communication patterns.
However, if you make a conscious effort to try to avoid these common pitfalls I am sure both you and the teenagers in your life will reap the benefits.

Image by lcrf

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