The first is the crucial components: those things that are of the utmost importance. What is the message they are trying to convey? What are they NOT saying? Do they feel they have my full attention? Are they overly emotional? Is the matter super serious?
I want to explore another concept I have devised: ‘teen communication currency’ - how much are you willing to ‘spend’ to get the most out of your conversations. This is an analysis technique for you to acknowledge, explore, assess and apply for the goal of getting the most out of your conversations with your teen. It is a strategy I have devised which can enable you to focus on what is really important to you. It will be an individual thing if it is to work well. There are three 'areas' to a conversation with my teens: Crucial things; Important but not Imperative; and shit not worth worrying about. Let me explain:
The second is the important but not imperative: there are some things that might have to ‘let pass’’ if you wish to maintain open communication. If your teen is confiding in you about something that is clearly important or serious to them, picking them up on grammar, the slipped swear word, or telling them to stop fiddling is a sure way to shut the conversation down. The best thing to do is ‘bank’ the concern you have and concentrate on the crucial point of the conversation.
You can always go back afterward and gently remind them that there is a time and place for swearing for example. There are some things you need to be ok with letting go for now, things you will perhaps come back to later. The key is to not sabotage what is clearly an important conversation by focusing on the poor choice of wording from a young person struggling with the emotions they are experiencing whilst talking to you. Letting a swear slip pass shows your teen that it important to you what they are saying over how they are saying it.
It is not to say that I advocate teens swearing; it will undoubtedly be brought up after the conversation “I know you were angry/emotional/upset, but you have a greater vocabulary to resort to swear words. Can you perhaps take a deep breath next time and clear your head a little so you don’t have to resort to emotionally fuelled language.”
Other examples could volume, excitability, timing. These are things that you are willing to let pass for the benefit for the actual message being communicated, but might revisit later to discuss preferred adult behaviours (remember we are nurturing them into the adult world of communication).
The final outer section; Let it go section are behaviours that are not worth even discussing afterward. In my currency, this includes silly voices, animated talk, using slang and so on. For me, these things are not remotely important enough to stop a rare opportunity for talk with my teen. I choose to view these characteristics as a part of the ‘charm’ of my offspring! Silly behaviours are not going to last forever and a small price to pay for a decent conversation in my mind. Your decision is to weigh up what you are prepared to let go in order to maximize communication with your teen.