How to Teach Teens Interpersonal Communication Skills

Whenever I hear the word teenager I think of Sebastian from Little Mermaid chastising Ariel.

Getting teens to look up from their screens to have a conversation might be a daunting task, but trust me, it can be done. We work with students A LOT – whether it be a school program or an extracurricular group, and let me tell you – teens make conscious choices not to communicate sometimes.

When you’re working on teaching teens interpersonal communication skills, the chiding and chastising of a certain singing crab won’t work. Here are three quick tips to help you on your noble journey:

Practice having conversations

If you aren’t working on conversations, you’re going to get nowhere fast. Work on having those conversations with a teen – this means all of the great skills of listening, asking questions, talking about something that is interesting to both of you as well as knowing when to stop. Conversations have an expiration date, and too often we let it bleed out far too long – to the point it’s dead on arrival – especially with teens.

Try this next time: bring up a topic you both are interested in and have a short back and forth conversation. You’re not teaching in this moment, aside from leading by example. There’s no way to build empathy skills or any of the higher-level interpersonal skills that you might be seeking without some baseline conversation!

Model good listening

If you don’t listen, why should they? I see this all too often: people getting irritated at students for not listening, and yet, they aren’t listening when the student is talking! If you’re lucky enough, they might tell you that they can see you aren’t listening…but often, they just stop talking.

This isn’t just when you’re talking to them – this is when you’re having conversations with other people around those teens! If they see you paying attention and listening to the person you’re talking to, you’re setting a good example for them to follow. What if you’re not being listened to, or realize that you weren’t listening and they were around? Well…

Call out glows and grows

Be transparent and call yourself, and your teen in question, out. Call them out for good wins and things they need to work on – and be sure to bring up moments that you weren’t the best, or when you felt proud of your listening skills.

Glows and grows are labels we put on things in our classes – glows are things you’re doing well and grows are things that need improvement. By being aware of what you’re doing well and what needs additional work, you’re not only showing transparency for your teen, you’re showing them that yes, sometimes this whole “growth” thing can be hard, and no, we aren’t all perfect! By spending a little time leading by this example, you’re showing them that they too can learn from a culture of reflection – and chances are some of these tips might be hard for you too!

What do you think? What’s worked with your teen in question?

X