Saturday, April 12, 2014

How to talk to teenagers and young adults

A lesson or reminder for all who need it (including me).

  1. Happy to see her? Say so. Show it with your face. Light up your eyes.
  2. Unless it’s to offer an enthusiastic compliment, do not comment on his clothing, shoes, accessories, tattoos, hair, weight, or anything else appearance-related—especially in the first five minutes. If you don’t feel complimentary about any aspect of his appearance, go back to #1.
  3. Ask what she’s been up to. Listen to the answer and then DON’T JUDGE. If you don't like the choices she is making regarding college or career or how she spends her free time, do not say so or in any way reveal it. Don’t offer advice. If you can’t think of anything else to say besides judgment and advice, simply ask what she likes or doesn’t like about what’s been going on.
  4. Ask him for a movie, book, TV show, or game recommendation. Young people are often voracious consumers of media of all types, and the choices they make about what to consume are hugely varied from week to week. If he knows you at all, he is very likely to immediately think of something he’s seen or read that will be up your alley, or he’ll say, “I don’t think you would like what I’ve been reading,” and that’s a great conversation starter right there.
  5. If her skills lean that way and the timing is right, ask her for help with that problem you’ve been having with your electronics, car, cat, leaky faucet, whatever. This shows that you know what her skills are and that you value them.
  6. Listen, listen, listen. You are in the presence of a great mind that has matured in a completely different culture from the one you grew up in. Take a peek at his perspective on life and the world.
  7. If she doesn’t seem interested in talking to you, don’t take it personally. By the time most kids turn 16, they have given up on adults' ability to really talk to them. It might take a while for her to recognize that you are worth her time. Meanwhile, find a way to set her free. “Would you like to go out to the yard and see the dog?”
  8. Make yourself available for a conversation as equals whenever he gives you a chance to show what you’re made of.
Got more? Add them in the comments.


Unknown said...

Are you trying to say that teenagers and young adults are people?

Ronnie said...

Shocking news, I know.

Ronnie said...

(More seriously, YES. Our culture does them such a huge disservice.)