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How to Get People to Open Up to You

How to Get People to Open Up to You including how to get teenagers out of their rooms and talking (nicely, calmly.....)

Stick with me – even if you don’t have kids, the three tools I’m going to share today, when practiced (!!), will change every relationship you have, and every one you will have!

I'd always had ridiculously ‘perfect’ ideals about who I would be as a mum, and who my kids should be....the amazing holidays, meals and memories we’d make together. A bit like the movies, the good ones!  And I really did put in the effort – I was a ‘control freak’ in overdrive trying to be the best mum, which was exhausting! I found myself parenting 3 kids like I didn’t have a job and working as if I didn’t have 3 kids. I became immensely resentful towards both my kids and my job.

As they became older they shut themselves inside their rooms, refused to join family meals, grunted and made other painful noises to avoid conversations, avoid me!? It was heart breaking. 

And with the way I was reacting - well, it was scary too, so no surprise they all wanted to spend so much time in their rooms!? Sometimes I wanted to get away from me too….

So far: exhausting, heart breaking, resentful... but when the house went from scary to quiet and I was literally living by myself in my house full of kids I knew something had to change. 

I studied and practiced mindfulness, religiously, to transform my life and my relationship with my kids. I started genuinely enjoying being a mum, spending time with them, really talking with them.  The link between them coming out of their rooms and re-joining the family so to speak, and my journey into mindfulness, was no coincidence!

Let me walk you through 3 mindful communication steps that form part of my mindfulness practice while I have teenagers at home.

As I’ve said, this will work for every single relationship you have – at work, with family, with kids, and in sports teams. 

1. Listen Generously

There's a huge difference between giving your time and giving your attention to your kids, or anyone for that matter. When you give your attention it lets them know they are important to you.

To listen generously starts with being present. Paying attention. Being curious. No distractions.

Translation: No phones. No computers. No TVs.  You know what’s it like to feel ignored while talking to someone: well generous listening and paying attention is the opposite of that!

Yes, it takes practice!  But its worth it. Research has shown that tweens and teens are more likely to open up and feel better about themselves when they’ve been listened to attentively. 

If we don’t listen generously, we ‘listen distracted’. Regardless of the outcome of the conversation, what the other person will normally remember is the sense of you not caring enough to pay them attention or listen ☹ 

2. Validate

(Now this is important - anytime you read 'kid, child or teenager', think employee, loved one, team member, HUMAN!...)

Kids want their views and feelings to be VALIDATED by you. To do this you need to be calm (not reactive) and you need to give them your full undivided attention (tip#1). Now you can validate.

First reflect back what you sense they are feeling, how are they feeling.  When your child hears you do this it will definitely help them feel heard and understood!  Respected. Reassured even. Which is exactly what they want!

Plus, it means they’re less likely to feel the need to keep telling you the same stuff (over and over and over again!) and making themselves feel worse!  Or taking up more of your time if you're on the clock. Brilliant!

Second let them know it makes perfect sense for them to feel that way. Of course you can only do this once they know they’ve been heard, and that you see what's happened for them. Validating in this way sends a message that it’s OK to feel something, anything. 

"I can see you're feeling really [angry, disappointed, frustrated, worried...] right now, and that makes perfect sense because I know how much you....."  You fill in the blanks.

EXTRA TIP: Remember that how they are feeling doesn’t need to make sense to you!  This step is about validating how they feel, not questioning the logic of their feelings using your own filters and experiences! So hard sometimes I know!

3. Say Nothing - PAUSE

After you’ve validated, it’s time to …  say nothing.  Simply PAUSE.  Without doubt, PAUSE is the simplest but hardest part of the process.

When we PAUSE we invite our child to recognise the empathy we’re extending to them and sense the connection.  It makes our connection with them stronger because you’re letting them know you trust them.

Most importantly, the PAUSE stops us from:giving (unwanted) advice
offering (unwanted) solutions
sharing (unhelpful) opinions
passing (harsh) judgements
and even stops us from sharing our own similar story.   (their rant is all about how they are feeling, it's not good timing to launch into "well I had this happen to me..." It's not about us remember!)
The PAUSE may feel awkward.  You may sense that your kids/employees/colleagues/boss (whoever is having a rant!) expects something else from you. Here are some ideas to use, after your PAUSE has been sufficiently long enough!What do you think?
What have you tried in the past?
Your ideas are awesome, what do you think about this?
I’ve never ….
It’s been decades since I was your age.
Sometimes in practice, when I’ve shown empathy using this method, my daughter feels safe to share something else. If we start talking about one matter, and I pay attention, validate and PAUSE, then whoosh, if she’s in the mood, it all comes tumbling out!  This is far more effective and ‘safe’ than to just keep asking ‘what’s wrong, what’s going on with you, why are you in a grump!?’.  They may well have no idea themselves!

Plus another daughter - when I work through this process (on the sly!), she comes up with her own solutions.  Imagine THAT - having kids and employees come up with their own ideas and plans to address their issues!!??

Hoping this was super helpful for you. 
Like anything in life, the more you practice it, the more effective it becomes. 
Again, no coincidence

I'd love to hear back from you if you have a story to share when you use these three tips.  Of course there's a great deal more to mindful communication than just these three steps, but boy, these will take you far!


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