By Taylor Wasko
It can feel hard as a teenager to maintain relationships and to learn how to deal with conflict. And it’s true, it is hard! It’s scary!
When we have an issue with someone or a difficult situation to discuss, it’s easy for worrisome thoughts to pop into our brains: “What if they talk bad about me to someone else?” “What if they get mad at me and don’t like me anymore?” “What if they don’t want to be my friend or date me after I bring this up?” While we often don’t have any real evidence for these thoughts, we still think them, and they make us feel scared to speak about how we feel and what we need.
So, what might we do instead? We ruminate (think about it over and over). We let resentment build. We vent and complain about it to someone else (which often escalates it into a bigger problem than it was in the beginning). We stuff it and deny our feelings and needs. As a result, we feel likely feel more angry, more anxious, and we don’t resolve anything.
In addition, in the age of social media, it can feel a lot easier to “talk things out” with someone through SnapChat, a text message, or through another form of social media. While this has become normal in our society, there are certain consequences I’ve observed in my time of being a therapist that this type of behavior can produce:
- You don’t learn how to advocate for yourself in real-time when you’re facing the difficult situation which leads to unhealthy boundaries, relationships and self-esteem.
- You doubt yourself and your ability to communicate, which results in higher levels of social anxiety and isolation.
- You become more addicted to your phone. There is a lot of scientific evidence that shows this increases risk for depression and anxiety.
Teenagers: you are at an age where learning interpersonal skills is imperative for confidence-building, maintaining relationships, preparing you for the workforce and life as an adult. Practicing face-to-face communication is necessary to prepare yourself for the future. Communication is the best tool we have to resolve problems, land that job you really want, work through an issue with someone you care about, and build self-esteem and confidence – so lets use it! Practice this communication tool next time you are feeling anxious to talk to someone about a problem:
DEAR MAN INTERPERSONAL COMMUNICATION SKILL
Describe: Start with describing the situation objectively. Don’t say: “when you got mad at me last night on Facetime…” instead, do say “When we were on Facetime last night”
Express: next, express how you feel. You never actually know how someone else is feeling until they tell you. Avoid mind-reading when you communicate. Don’t say “when you were mad at me on Facetime…” do say “I felt sad and anxious when you stopped talking to me, it seemed like you were upset.”
Assert: Don’t beat around the bush! Say what you need to say. “I need you to communicate with me if something is wrong. This would be helpful for me because I’ll know if we have a problem to work through.”
Reinforce: Reward the person if they respond well: “thank you for listening and understanding.”
Mindfulness: It can be easy to get off-topic in hard conversations, stay mindful of the goal in the conversation.
Appear Confident: Look confident by making eye contact, being aware of your body language, and consider your tone.
Negotiate: Always be open to the other persons needs and willing to negotiate. For example: “I understand if you need some time before talking the problem through. If you need to hang up because you’re upset, we can always talk when you’re ready.
Good luck, you’ve got this!
And if you would like help with improving your relationships, communication skills, self-esteem, managing anxiety or mood then working with a skilled therapist can help. We have 5 to chose from here at A Balanced Life!