Categories
Adolescence Mental Health Parenting Recovery

Why is it so Hard to Say “No”?

Adolescents look to adults for security, safety, and to be positive examples; this also meanslatigo-fence they tend to push buttons and test boundaries – “No” is often low on the list of a teen’s favorite words.  As adults, we have to make a concerted effort to create firm boundaries for our kids that are not only respectful, but geared toward creating an environment of emotional and physical safety. This means we have to say “no” even if it’s not a popular answer, and it means we have to hold the boundary surrounding that answer, regardless of the outcome. Remember, “No” is a complete sentence, and it’s perfectly okay to say it, own it, and honor it.

 

It’s easier to back out of a “No” than a “Yes.”

 

Imagine this scenario: Your teen is relentlessly asking you if they can hang out at a friend’s house; you are engrossed in a project or conversation. Out of frustration, you hastily give permission. However, a bit later, you realize you had said, “yes,” in error – you actually want your teen home for dinner, and being at a friend’s house means he or she won’t be home in time. So you change your mind. All of a sudden, you have an angry teen on your hands – you’re unfair, mean, et cetera. Speaking out of haste or frustration has a negative impact – it illustrates an unstable boundary and creates an environment where kids don’t know what to expect. In the scenario above, no one wins:  your teen is disappointed and angry at you, and you’re frustrated and angry at your teen.

 

Why is it so hard to say “No”? And better yet, why is it so hard for us to hear “No”?

 

“No” is a boundary. It is a way of advocating for ourselves and ensuring we are meeting our needs. It allows us to set boundaries so we can take care of ourselves and create healthy boundaries with others. “No” is not mean; it’s not spiteful. “No” is honest and it represents self-respect and self-awareness. It also cultivates emotional safety and stability.

 

Sometimes, saying “No” can feel like we are letting someone down, or maybe like we are letting ourselves down. Maybe we want to say, “Yes” when what we really need to say is “No.”  This is a hard skill to learn, for teens and adults.

 

If/when you are faced with a difficult situation where there might be pressure to say “Yes,” or where you are uncomfortable saying “No,” ask yourself the following questions:

  • Will the outcome be helpful or harmful to yourself or others?
  • Are my needs being met?
  • Is this “Yes” to please someone else or to honor myself?

 

Hearing “No” can be difficult because often times, the truth is, we aren’t really asking; we are making a veiled demand that is presented in the form of a question. The politeness we assumed in the asking then comes crashing down because the reality is, we weren’t asking in the first place. When things are in a stasis, this is a great conversation to have with your teen. And it’s a great perspective to be aware of for yourself. Are you really asking your teen to take out the trash, or you demanding that they do it? If they said, “No,” how would you respond?

 

Hearing “No” also can breed a sense of disappointment.  We may feel like we aren’t getting what we want. We may feel rejected. There is an unfortunate comfort in being polite and saying what we think others want to hear. When we are inauthentic and we omit our truth, we evoke a passive anger later on. Bringing some awareness into cultivates authentic and honest communication.

 

Setting and maintaining healthy boundaries is a lifetime practice. Some boundaries are easier set than others. Practicing saying “No” is a good start. In fact, it’s an empowering start.

Categories
Adolescence Family Feelings Parenting Prevention Recovery

How Do You and Your Teen Deal with Conflict?

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Conflict comes up frequently in the adolescent years,

almost as though drama and discord are part of the growing-up process. But how our kids learn to deal with conflict is often a result of watching the way the adults around them deal with it. Parents, teachers, mentors, influential adults: all are their mirrors.

 

Where conflict becomes problematic is in the unskillful ways in which it’s managed. Teens need to develop self-regulation skills so they can A: recognize what has triggered their anger, and B: respond to it skillfully.

 

Try any of these 5 suggestions to help manage conflict:

 

1: Take a time out: In other words, walk away from the conflict fueled situation to collect your thoughts and calm down. You can take a walk or take some deep breaths.

2:  Use “I” phrases when you communicate. “I feel” instead of “You’re being so lame” is a wiser method of communication. It shows the ability to take responsibility for one’s feelings and actions and eliminates the blame and shame game.

3: Mirroring: By mirroring, we “reflect” what the other person says. “I hear that you feel frustrated” is much more helpful than “You are so frustrating,” or “Why are you so ANGRY?” By mirroring, we recognize what the other person is saying, and as a result, we let them know that we “see” and “hear” them. When someone feels seen and heard, it validates their feelings and allows them to be present for someone else’s process. It’s powerful.

4: Own up to it. Take responsibility for your own actions without pointing fingers at the person you’re angry at. If you lied, own it. If you cheated, own it. If you were mean, own it. You will be more respected and revered if you are honest. In the language of the 12 steps: Keep your side of the street clean.

5: Respect. If you are respectful of others, they are more apt to be respectful toward you. If someone treats you disrespectfully, try the counterintutive practice of being respectful toward them anyway.

 

Remember this: adolescents aren’t born equipped with problem solving skills or tools for conflict resolution. They have to learn these things. They learn them from watching their parents, teachers, and mentors. If a teen’s adult representatives are poor communicators, or if they handle frustration with anger or discord, then teens will learn to communicate via anger and discord.

 

Parents, when conflicts within the family arise, how do you handle them? Do you yell? Do you slam doors? Do you get into a shouting match with your teen?

 

If negative reactions to conflict are your go-to, then conflict will continue to flourish. Yelling won’t solve any problems. It will create more problems. Here’s a common scenario: your teenager arrives home 15 minutes past their curfew. You’re angry, frustrated, and worried. Your reaction to your teen when he or she walks in is to start yelling at them. All of your fears and frustrations come to a head. What if, instead of yelling, you calmly asked, “What time is your curfew?” “What time is it now?” and finally, “Can you tell me what the punishment is for being late?” Several things happen in this scenario. Your teen is given an opportunity to take responsibility, and they can even begin to recognize that the punishment isn’t that egregious.

 

Parents and teens alike need to know how to self-regulate. Try to integrate some of these into your life:

  • Take a time out.
  • Count to 10 before you respond.
  • Be fair: allow both parties the opportunity to express their views and experiences.
  • Don’t take it personally.
  • Have empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and feel the feelings of another human being. It’s the ability to put yourself in someone’s shoes. Doing this may allow you to have compassion for the person you are angry at.

 

Resolving conflict requires a cool head and an open heart. Adolescence is a messy time—rather, it’s emotionally messy. Hormones are raging, moods are swinging, in truth, it’s a party you don’t want to go to but one that is a regular part of life. We were all teenagers once. If we can remember that piece, we can develop empathy. If we can remember what it felt like to go through this rapid-fire change, we will hopefully ourselves to be kinder and more loving to each other.

Categories
Adolescence Communication Recovery

Technology: It Will be There After Dinner

© sarit z. rogers / sarit photography

Technology allows us to be more connected, more in touch with what’s going on in our communities, and it enables us to reach beyond our wildest dreams in terms of connections; there’s also a dark side. With this incredible connection comes an inevitable disconnection. This may sound ironic coming from me, the New Media Manager, but stick with this, I promise you, it’s relevant.

 

How many of us have a few hundred or a few thousand followers and connections across several social media platforms, whose lives we “know” and “touch” on a daily basis? Most of us do. In fact, if someone says they don’t have a Facebook, Instagram or Twitter account, we find ourselves at a loss for words. Let’s be honest, technology is a wonderful tool: it gets a message out there in a way that analog marketing couldn’t. One post can reach thousands of people at the press of a button. The fingers of the Internet and social media mavens are long and far-reaching. It’s phenomenal, to tell you the truth. The current technological age is monumental.

 

So what’s the catch?

 

As we have become more plugged in and more connected, we have subsequently become disconnected.  Text messaging has become the primary means of communication for many, because it’s fast, convenient, and it takes away the discomfort of confrontation. It’s much easier to dump someone via text, or tell someone off via text, or give someone bad news via text…isn’t it? In a sense, but it’s deeply impersonal and detached.  We have deluded ourselves into believing we are “safe” behind our smart phones and computers.  I have seen teens in coffee shops hanging out and texting to each other in lieu of having a real conversation: Eyes on the iPhone, rather than on each other. Conversations seem to happen technologically rather than face-to-face, which is, in this case, a disservice. Talking to each other is an invaluable way in which to connect, and making eye contact is part and parcel to that connection.

 

I realized I was doing some of this myself. I was disconnected to the people trying to talk to me in real time, because I was too busy staying “connected” in tech time. This is a problem. So I made a decision. I decided to unplug when I am sitting with people, and chose to engage with and be present for the people I’m with.  Texts and the like could wait. As a result, I find myself less stressed out, less anxious, and more connected with the present moment.

 

Where do we go from here?

 

First of all, technology is here to stay. It’s incredible. I couldn’t do my job without it. There are outlets like Skype and Google Chat, which allow us to stay connected with family, friends and co-workers that are not geographically close. Social media provides a global connection.  These tools are invaluable.

 

To me, the solution is to use these tools wisely and consciously. We can choose to unplug at:

  • Meals
  • With our family
  • With our friends
  • While we’re driving

We can pick up the phone to share pertinent information with those in our lives.  Yes, even the uncomfortable stuff. Confrontation is tough, but so is being on the receiving end of a terse or insensitive text message. I write all the time and am enamored with words, but it’s more authentic and heart based for me to directly communicate significant information. I recently received a text message in text lingo telling me a distant uncle had passed. I was more jarred by the transmission of the information than the loss. It was clear to me that using that form of communication for that type of information had desensitized my reaction.

 

I encourage you to unplug incrementally: be present at dinner, with your friends, and with your family. Technology isn’t going anywhere. It will await you in all of its magnificence when you return. That’s the beauty of it.

Categories
Communication Stress

Rest Your Thumbs: Communication Without Texting

Oh, technology, how far you’ve come.

When I was a teen, a computer was something only geeks or millionaires had; cell phones were something futuristic and reminiscent of the 80’s show Hart to Hart

and their “fancy” car phones. So when the first phones came on the scene back in 1983, coined The Brick, and weighing in at two pounds with a mere half-hour of talk time, the collective response was amazement. The price tag was hefty, which raised its status, making it all the more desirable and of course, cool. There were even rap songs about the Brick! Realistically, if you had one at that time, they served no other purpose than for social status and of course, “emergency” phone calls. The Brick couldn’t do much more than make a phone call anyway.

In 2012, we now have miniature tools of technological genius, which allow for us to communicate via text messaging, voice, email, and various social-media outlets via a host of apps. What we’ve ended up with are varying forms of non-confrontational and non-contiguous means of communication. This type of communication works for many people, especially when one considers the amount of multi-tasking we do these days. Unfortunately, texting has evolved and become the primary form of communication for many, particularly teens, whose need to stay connected socially is often a key component to their social survival. Let’s face it, it’s far less scary to test the waters of a burgeoning relationship via text than it is in person. The trouble with this is two-fold:  texting lacks sincerity, and it lacks accountability – two things which are crucial in building the bedrock meaningful friendships and relationships are based upon. The non-contiguous factor also has its positives and negatives: you can share a nugget of information that’s not time sensitive, therefore not requiring immediate response. But you can also say things you’d never say in a million years to someone’s face and “walk” away.

This comment, “Words are bullets,” which I once heard in a meeting seems to really ring true in the case of text messages and digital communication. In this sense, a text can be like a virtual Uzi. I’ve experienced this phenomenon myself, where I’ve received a nasty message via text but upon direct confrontation, I was met with sheer nervousness, darting eyes, and denial. What’s concerning is the deterioration of our communication skills, particularly amongst adolescents. As a culture, we’ve gotten lazy when it comes to expressing ourselves, though our thumbs might disagree.

My own goal this year is to minimize the use of texting as a primary form of communication. I’ve been successful thus far, and have experienced more meaningful conversations with people. Try this: put your phone away for a prescribed period of time. If you need to tell someone something, pick up the phone!  You might be amazed how the quality of your ensuing conversations increases. I know I did, and I multi-task with the best of them.