Strong Communication with Your Teen Is Possible

You’ve had a couple weeks to observe…Have you figured out your teen’s communication style go-to yet? 

The past few weeks were dedicated to exploring the three main maladaptivecommunication styles: Aggressive, passive, and passive-aggressive. 

Today, we focus on the most useful, healthy, and adaptive communication style: Assertive communication. 

When you hear “assertive communication” what comes to mind?

No matter how many years I have been conducting assertiveness training for clients and in workshops, I still can’t erase the image from my head of a school principal, dressed in a crisp blouse or suit, holding a yardstick, and commanding a room full of people to comply, comply, comply. 

Perhaps you have a similar vision, yet this time it is your boss in a boardroom. 

The thing is, assertive communication couldn’t be farther from that image. Assertiveness is one of the kindest and most compassionate ways of communicating. Let’s explore that more below.

Perhaps you have a similar vision, yet this time it is your boss in a boardroom. 

The thing is, assertive communication couldn’t be farther from that image. Assertiveness is one of the kindest and most compassionate ways of communicating. Let’s explore that more below.

Another way I like to think of assertiveness is the term “compassionate boundaries”. It is a way of speaking that shows kindness, warmth, and empathy for the person you are communicating with, while still ensuring your voice, ideas, emotional needs, and requests are given fair space. 

Assertiveness includes seeking understanding, asking for clarification, stating your perspectives, offering apologies, requesting apologies, stepping away when needed, requesting solutions, working together to find solutions, being heard, and ultimately feeling confident in yourself while communicating. 

Assertiveness is NOT ensuring the person listens to you and complies, speaking rigidly and without warmth or flexibility, exercising authority over someone, having more power, forcing rules or requests without discussion, or only feeling confident because you got your way and didn’t have to deal with backlash. 

Assertive communication empowers everyone so that every party can walk away from a discussion or difficult conversation feeling good about how it just went, regardless of outcomeAssertive communication is a process and a technique that can be learned and results in stronger relationships for all involved. 

Sign me up, right?

Before we dive in, here are two reminders: 

1. You are only in control of the way YOU communicate. You can teach and model assertive communication, but you cannot force someone else to communicate assertively. Tweens and teens will pick up this style of communicating the more they see you use it. 

2. Toxic communicators are those who are committed to derailing you, making you feel powerless and unstable. Tweens and teens are typically NOT toxic communicators. 

Let’s say that again: Tweens and teens do not communicate in such a way that they are purposefully trying to make you feel bad, crazy, powerless, or unstable. 

Tweens and teens communicate in ways that are in response to their environment, using the tools that they have observed in real life that they think will help them feel better about themselves. Tweens and teens communicate in ways that they believe will make their voice heard based on what they have observed in the home, or in reaction to the ways they have been spoken to in the home. 

If you want your tween or teen to change the way they talk to you? Change the way you talk to them.

That sounded like a harsh #truthhurts 

But this is not about blame or shame, this is about empowering you to create the most loving, connected bond you could ever imagine with your kid. Assertiveness can help you get there. 

So how do you speak assertively? 

The first and most crucial step is…*drum roll*

To believe your thoughts, opinions, needs, experiences, and perspectives have value!

That’s right. The first and most important thing you need to do in order to be assertive in your communication is to acknowledge that your voice matters!

How many of you struggle with assertiveness because you struggle with self-esteem? How many of you crumble when it comes time to upholding boundaries because you think you don’t matter? How many of you fear speaking up or making requests because you worry you will be ridiculed or shut down?

Wouldn’t it be so much easier to express yourself and get your needs met if you knew the person you were speaking with could hold space for you, listen compassionately, and work with you to find a desired solution? Wouldn’t communication be so much easier if you felt valued??

This is what your tweens and teens need from you to become the most confident and well adjusted adults. 

Nobody wants to get stuck in a trap of difficult communications that cause difficult emotions to spike and solutions to get lost and relationships to be harmed. Yet this is the type of communication that most of us have been used to in our lives. 

And you have the power to change that!

Here’s how to start changing the cycle: 

1. Practice requests in situations that normally you would shy away from

E.g. Excuse me, I actually asked for a decaf coffee. Would you mind remaking it? Thanks so much

E.g. I know you are really upset about this curfew and I can hear that you are angry at me for imposing it. It’s ok to be really bummed out but the curfew still stands. 

2. Practice compassion

E.g. Yikes it looks like you’re really busy. It makes sense that my order got messed up. I used to work in service so I know how tough it can be. What’s the best way to get this rectified?

E.g. Aww It is such a bummer that you want to see your friends but that we have to be out of town that weekend. You probably had a bunch of stuff you wanted to talk about with them and you feel you are missing out. What do you look forward to most when you are able to see them next weekend instead?

3. Provide solutions for the roadblocks

E.g Everyone has such great ideas at this meeting that we are getting off track. I’m going to bring us back to the topic at hand. Would anyone like a piece of paper to jot down ideas they come up with during the meeting so we can add them to next week’s agenda and we can minimize interruptions for this week’s topic?

E.g. I hear that you really want to continue this conversation right now. I’m thinking you don’t feel I have heard you or understood your feelings. However we are both escalating and our emotions and tempers are flaring and that’s not a good foundation for us to really communicate about this issue. I’m going to take a 2 hour break to take care of myself and then we can revisit this. When we come back, let’s each share one sentence that perfectly sums up the concern we have. I wonder if our sentences will have anything in common. 

It’s that simple!

Look at you being assertive and you didn’t even have to strike a power pose!!

(But you still can if you want to)

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