Clarity in Conversation with Your Teen

by Marie Armenia on Thursday, October 26, 2006

Are your conversations with your teenagers perfectly clear?

When it comes down to it, pride is at the heart of most communication problems. If you talk too much, listen too little, and puff up with pride, how effective can you be in communicating with your teen?

Mary Kassian, author of Conversation Peace: the Power of Transformed Speech (LifeWay Press), says "At their deepest root, communication problems are spiritual problems. Jesus says the words we speak are a reflection of what's in our hearts [See Matt. 12:34.] For our mouths to be filled with good, the soil of our hearts must be good. The cleanup process begins with repentance. With that repentance, and a new attitude and some simple changes in the way we relate to others, conversation peace is possible."

Here are some steps you can take to start communicating better.

Add openness

In the Bible, the high, closed gates to a city signaled a defensive position - nothing getting in, nothing getting out. In our lives, we build emotional and behavioral closed gates that give the same signal. An open gate is a behavior that tells others they're welcome to come in and you're willing to come out. And the message isn't just with words. As Kassian explains, words contribute only seven percent to the overall message; tone of voice racks up 38 percent; body languages 55 percent. Think about it: what did your body language and voice tone communicate to your teenager today? Were you a closed gate, or an open one?

Include humility

Our goal as Christians is to become more Christlike. Jesus was the living example of conversation peace; he chose to communicate with great care, constructing healthy relationships with words of support, affirmation and encouragement - and the world was forever changed by His approach to conversation.

"The most important ingredient for healthy communication is humility," explained Kassian. "Humility is the heart attitude that helps us listen and maintain a non-defensive/non-combative attitude. Humility seeks to understand. It admits shortcomings and failures and builds up our relationships."

Steps to resolve conflicts

  • Remain calm. Ask God to help you think before you speak.
  • Echo and inquire. Echo back what you heard to see if you understood.
  • State your position. Be honest and direct. Ask how your position was interpreted.
  • Objectify the crux. Identify the core conflict: "We're at odds about..."
  • List alternatives. "How can we address both of our concerns?"
  • Validate needs. The best way to close a conflict is to create a win-win solution.
  • Establish a plan. Support it with your attitude and actions.

Healthy transformation doesn't take place overnight; the tongue is not an easy muscle to tame. But with repentance and commitment, it can and will happen for you and me and our teenagers - one conversation at a time.

Marie Armenia is a freelance writer, women's conference speaker, and singer-songwriter living near Nashville, Tennessee.

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