It seems that to each generation of adults, the current generation of teens is far more daring than they were and much less prepared to handle “real” life. Now, with teens having access to prolific amounts of technology, adults are also concerned that the upcoming generation is also going to struggle with face to face communication skills. At Screenagers, they focus on what technology means for teenagers today. Recently, in their Tech Talk Tuesday, they focus on interpersonal communications, and how teachable of a skill it is. It’s up to us, as adults, to help teens practice these skills. Below is helpful information about communication from Dr. Delaney Ruston, Screenagers’ filmmaker.
Last week I was talking with a counselor at a high school who told me about how the students immediately go on their cell phones when they leave classrooms and enter the hallways, and that she was “…sure they are all losing their ability to communicate.” When people have said this to me, I think they are often surprised by my response which is:
“I can relate to your concerns—but let’s also think about Aunt Jane or Uncle Joe who didn’t grow up with much screen time but, boy, do they struggle with effective communication.”
However, I don’t mean to say that a preponderance of screen time is not impacting kids’ communication skills—I believe there surely are effects. Sadly, there is practically no published research that compares communication skills of today’s youth to those of youth in the past. I would love to see data for such things as frequency of eye contact, ability to confidently talk to people of all ages, and confidence in expressing uncomfortable thoughts and emotions.
I am a big believer that communication is a teachable skill. We can all learn more productive ways to handle in-person interactions. During my medicine residency, mentors taught me how to navigate a multitude of communication challenges—such as with people from different cultures and end of life discussions. I realized there was an entire science of communication and I was eager to learn more—so after my residency, I went on to do a Fellowship in Medical Ethics focusing specifically on doctor-patient communication.
Let’s use this week’s Tech Talk Tuesday time to discuss communication skills with our children or students. I want to share a communication tool that comes from a field of therapy, called DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), created by Marcia Linehan. It’s called DEAR, and it is great to use when anyone is about to ask for something that they are nervous about.
D = Describe the situation
E = Emotion you are feeling about the issue
A = Ask for what you want
R = Reiterate how it will benefit both of you if this can be worked out
My son, Chase and I talked today about DEAR, and he gave me an example of a friend he wants to try DEAR on this week. The friend is frequently off in the corner on his phone when the two of them are together. This is what Chase plans to do:
D = Describe to his friend that he sees him checking his phone much of the time they are together
E = Because of this Chase feels distant (the emotion) when they hang out
A = Ask him if they could try hanging out just one day with their phones entirely out of view
R = Reiterate that he thinks they would both have a better time together
How do we improve our face-to-face communication skills? Here are some questions to get the conversation started:
If you have a teen or young adult in your life who has poor interpersonal skills and needs help, call Tamara Ancona, MA, LPC, at (678) 297-0708 for an evaluation, and to discuss potential solutions.
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