Communication is the key to positive, meaningful relationships in all areas of our lives—home, school, college, and career. Wherever we are in life, the ability to relate to others and communicate clearly gives us an advantage. In our SuperCamp programs we teach students some powerful tools for achieving clear, constructive communication and maintaining positive relationships.
This series includes the following communication topics:
- #1 – Open the Front Door: Communicate negative feelings with a positive approach
- #2 – Four-Part Apology: Quickly and authentically acknowledge and apologize for mistakes
- #3 – Three Conversation Don’ts: Avoid communication killers like reassurance, advice, and identification
- #4 – Active Listening: Pay attention to the words and the non-verbal communication in a conversation
- #5 – Visible communication: Make your intent visible, make your purpose clear
Beware! Some conversation responses—like reassurance, advice, and identification—that seem helpful on the surface can actually hinder positive communication, and may even end a conversation before it has a chance to become meaningful communication.
Don’t Be a Communication Killer
Here are the three don’ts that we teach at our SuperCamp and school programs: don’t deny, don’t resolve, and don’t me-too. They’re helpful in all relationships—with parents, other family members, and friends.
- Don’t deny
When someone shares an experience, a fear, or a feeling and you respond with immediate reassurance (which you may or may not believe to be true), you might mean to comfort them, but what you’re really doing is cutting off their sharing with the statement that they shouldn’t feel that way—you’re denying their feelings.
Your friend looks in the mirror and says I’m so fat. I think I must go on a diet.
Your response: You don’t need to lose weight, you look fine.
- Don’t resolve
When someone tells you about a problem they’re having and you quickly hand them a solution, you shut them right down. Think about it. If you wanted to chat with a friend about a problem and maybe share some ideas, and they quickly throw a solution at you, it wouldn’t feel very good. Their two-minute solution to a problem you’ve been struggling with for weeks would probably (a) be unlikely to work, (b) be something you already thought of, and (c) be very likely to end the conversation.
You friend says I’m wondering what I should do about . . . . I’m thinking that . . .
Your response: If I were you I’d . . .
- Don’t me-too
When someone begins to share something with you that they’re going through and you cut them off with a “Me-too” and go into your experience, you’ve killed the conversation. They may never get to finish telling you about their experience, but they’ll know all about what happened to you.
Your friend begins to tell you about an argument with his girlfriend: Yesterday Suzie and I had an argument and I . . .
Your response: I know exactly what you mean—the same thing happened to me when I . . .
None of these responses gives a conversation a chance. Often the best “conversations” are very one-sided as far as speaking is concerned. This relates to active listening and it’s a vital ingredient in meaningful communication. The “listener” listens very intently and hardly says a word, only contributing enough to let the other person know they’re really hearing them. Think about the difference active listening would have made in the three don’t examples above.
Don’t kill a conversation with reassurance, advice, or identification. Your goal is not to diagnose, pacify, or fix. Let your goal be to listen, and to let the speaker know they’re being heard.
The next article in our Communication Series is in fact about Active Listening. Paying attention to the words as well as the non-verbal communication in a conversation is such a simple communication tool—and so effective.
About the Contributor: Since 1982, SUPERCAMP, Monthly Mentor, has inspired and empowered thousands of teens to feel confident and motivated, and to excel in school and beyond. SuperCamp offers seven- and ten-day residential programs for students in middle school, high school, and first-year college. Living on a college campus is a great experience for pre-teens and teens and most of our grads go directly to a four-year college after high school. As teens from around the world gather at SuperCamp, they are inspired to believe in themselves and their ability to achieve, and they acquire learning and life skills that empower them to thrive in all areas of their life. Read More…
(See what some recent grads have to say about SuperCamp at www.supercamp.com/student-testimonials.)