Your changing role – From telling to asking
In my last post I talked about the change in behaviour that often accompanies adolescence and that the practice of adopting the role of a coach can help to mitigate any disharmony by discussing and listening to the “player”, your adolescent.
The step-by-step programme that I teach is based on listening to what teenagers said they needed
from adults as they went through this huge transition. One of the seven key elements was to be understood. It can be a tough call to try to understand an adolescent and many parents have told me as much. The truth is that they struggle to understand themselves and, although they shut you out and don’t look as though they want you, I’ve worked with enough who have told me that, at this age, they need the adults in their lives more than ever. The challenge, when they are being self-centred and disagreeable, is to move away from the role of manager, where instructing was still effective, and moving towards the role of coach where asking is more fruitful than telling. Let’s look at the difference.
An “ask” is to request an action or the answer to a question.
A “tell” is to order or instruct.
An “ask” implies that the person is permitted to say “no” and can negotiate. It teaches responsibility.
A “tell” is non-negotiable and also sometimes may be a requirement.
Here’s an example:
Ask – “I have a request. I’d like you to take responsibility for taking the bin out.”
Tell – “Get in the car now, we are going to be late.”
See the difference?
However, it is very easy to mix up asking and telling and that is confusing to a teenager. If you want your teen to do something, be clear about it. Is it a request or is it an instruction? If you ask by saying “Would you like to ….” when you really mean “I’d like you to ….” you have confused an “ask” with a “tell” and are in danger of creating an argument.
Asking can also be interpreted, by the emotionally unregulated brain of an adolescent, as interrogation! A lot of this is down to the tone of voice used and also the reason behind asking. For example, are you asking your teen a question because you want information or are you asking them just so that you can be right and they will be wrong? (You would be amazed how many of us, myself included, have done this).
The coaching perspective is the information-seeking one and, providing it is asked in a neutral tone of voice, your question is more likely to get a measured response and may well lead to a discussion that helps you understand yours teen’s needs/emotions/point of view better. Simultaneously it shows that you are both interested and respect their opinion. By contrast the latter is a manager perspective and is unlikely to be as well received!
I hope you have enjoyed this short series of posts. For more information about the work I do with parents please visit my website, www.diamondsinside.co.uk or ring me on 01430 873464. I offer free, 30 minute Discovery Sessions to parents of adolescents aged 10-19 and would be very happy to hear from you.