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Building Supportive Relationships
Through Communication

Teens want to be understood and parents want to be heard, though the win-win communication is not always evident. Each participant really wants to do the best job they can with what they have. In order to make any changes in ourselves we need other people or supportive relationships in our lives.

Relationships help us deal with fear, frustration, stress, loneliness, and other barriers to personal growth. There are skills needed to build relationships such as expressing your feelings, listening openly and non-critically, offering positive feedback, and asking for support you need when you need it. The common thread here is communication.

How can you express your feelings especially if this seems unnatural? Unexpressed feelings bar others from really knowing you and you from developing supportive relationships. People may know what you think and do, but not who you are. Reflect for a moment to those close friends. What is one of the basic ingredients for open understanding? Communication.

Communication comes in five levels, each developing varying degrees of closeness. Casual friends may fall between levels 1 and 2 while most friends may fall between 2 to 3. Listed are levels and the description to help you determine your closeness to others and ways to identify possible barriers.

Level 1—Relationships deal with facts. These are safe, nonthreatening, objective information like tests, recipes, and advertisements. Most classroom time is level 1.

Level 2—Relationships deal with what others say. "They say it’s going to rain today." "I hear that the play is terrible." Level 2 won’t get you into any controversy.

Level 3—Relationships deal with opinion/judgement. Your opinion about facts can begin to open the door for possible disagreement. "I don’t like the color of her outfit." "I wish that team had won, they were best." There is some risk-taking here.

Level 4—Relationships deal with feelings. You begin to expose how you feel about something. For instance, you may tell someone how angry you are, talk about your anxiety or about your love for someone. It’s far more risky to share from your heart than from your mind.

Level 5—Relationships deal with exposing yourself and needs. The greatest risk, deepest sharing, talking about your needs will require trust and honesty both with yourself and with the other person. This level takes time to develop. It doesn’t come easily.

It is healthy to be in the 1s and 2s and 3s, but develop the capacity within yourself to dip into 4s and 5s. The goal is to work to respond to each situation with the appropriate level. And as you develop your comfort levels of communication, you will enrich those supportive relationships around you.

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