Healthy Communication: A Vital Skill for Adolescents

Expressing a need

One of the things that many teenagers may struggle with is the vulnerability of asking for what they need. Anytime someone expresses a need, there is always a chance that the need may go unmet. This can be due to lack of understanding, external issues, such as resource limitations, or any other list of factors. When an adolescent does not understand their own needs, does not feel confident expressing them, or feels that the need will be denied then this can often mean that an adolescent will instead utilize other methods of expressing and meeting their needs. Sometimes these alternative forms of communication can be stressful for all involved, such as yelling, triangulation, projection, and acting out in other ways. A teen may be so fearful of vulnerability, especially among peers, that it may seem easier to hurt or wound another peer before a perceived hurt or wound comes their own way. The avoidance of vulnerability can play a significant role in how teens relate to each other, as well as in how they relate to adults in their lives. An adolescent may struggle to find ways they can articulate feelings or needs without opening themself up to disappointment or rejection.

What is Healthy Communication?

Healthy communication involves the speaker expressing their idea and their need to someone else in a way that is clear, nonjudgmental, respect-based, and kind. Healthy communication prioritizes honesty, transparency, and delivery of information. Things that can get in the way of healthy communication are fears, cognitive distortions, vulnerabilities, frustrations, or assumptions. Many teenagers now utilize social media to have conversations that may have been in person in the past. Non-verbal communication has taken on a whole new meaning in the context of these app and web-based conversations. The interpretation of tone, intent, and purpose can be heavily obscured under layers of online social etiquette, to the point that feelings can become hurt even when both parties had good intentions. Healthy communication skills apply online, in text, and in person.

Ways to Communicate Better

At ilearn wellness group, we work with adolescents to help them better understand what their needs are and how to communicate them. Techniques such as using “I statements” and being able to understand another speaker’s point of view helps an adolescent understand what may be occurring during a difficult or high intensity conversation. Understanding your triggers and negative core beliefs that may get activated during a tense conversation can help teens understand why they may respond to a text or a statement one way in one context, and a totally different way in another. Learning these healthy communication patterns can improve the relationships the adolescent has with support in their life and with their peers. Contact us today to learn more.

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