Creating meaningful relationships through constructive communication

Creating meaningful relationships through constructive communication

If you did not grow up with social media, can you recall any difference between how you communicated with others then and how you communicate with others these days?

“Sally (not her real name), you seem to spend a lot of time on your phone.”

“Yes, I do.”

“Are you addicted?”

“Yes, sometimes I think I am.”

“Well, I watched you at sport last weekend. You went along to watch the Sport, yet spent most of your time looking at your phone.”

“I saw the Sport.”

“Yes, right!”

I had a conversation that went something like that with a student in her final year of school the other day. We continued along these lines:

“Do you keep your phone in your bedroom overnight?”

“Yes.”

“Do you keep your phone on through the night?”

“No, I turn it off at about 9.30 pm.”

“And I am sure you have been on it on and off since 7.00?” I smiled.

“Yes, you’re probably right.”

Being addicted to social media appears to be an increasing issue emerging in the global world of adolescents and that’s probably a topic for another Blog.

What this conversation did achieve was getting me to reflect on how much better we communicated when I was an adolescent and we didn’t have all the social media gadgets that don’t show body language, tone of voice and facial expressions, all key aspects of effective communication between two people.

Constructive communication between a mentee and a mentor can radically improve their relationship, feedback being something that could become life-changing for some mentees.

So, when communicating constructively, don’t forget the importance of giving feedback as a way of offering constructive assistance. It will enable you to:

  • prompt your mentees to consider changing their behavior – for example, by giving feedback on how their behavior is affecting others.
  • keep your mentees on track – for example by giving feedback in relation to their goals.

Your mentees need good feedback in order to improve. If they do not understand their strengths and developmental needs, it is hard for them to know how to develop and learn. In order to give feedback that is constructive:

  • do not give feedback until you have established the correct climate, which is a strong, trusting relationship.
  • provide a balance of positive and negative – and, if you need to criticize, attack the behaviour rather than the person (mentees are already receiving answers to questions they are busy asking themselves, eg, Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?
  • be specific and descriptive.
  • give relevant feedback.
  • give it at an appropriate time.
  • offer feedback that encourages further discussion.

These days I generally ask students if they want some feedback, as they need to have a positive mindset to receive information, good or not-so-good and, by taking this line, there is a form of self-empowerment occurring.

I hope that Sally does reflect on her potential phone addiction and spends more time talking face to face with her peers and other adults.

What do you observe when watching adolescents in any situation these days?

About the author: Robin Cox has been a School Principal, sports coach to National Under 19 Level, Youth Symposium Organiser, developer of Youth Mentoring Programs in New Zealand and Australia, Churchill Fellow and author of books linked to youth mentoring, Peer Mentoring and the development of adolescents to become the best they can be. He has trained over 1,000 volunteer adult mentors, run workshops for teachers promoting the Spirit of Mentoring and personally mentored over 1,000 adolescents. Still an idealist, a cancer survivor of 50+ years, married with two adult children, Robin lives in Australia and shares a passion with anyone wanting to make a positive difference in the global community. You can join him on Twitter @million2016coxy or on Facebook or contact him through his YES! website