3 Ways to Hear Others and Get Others to Hear You

Being able to converse and deal with others across an array of races, gender, class, and sexual orientation is critical to helping a teen grow up to be an accepting, respectful, tolerant, and compassionate adult. It’s not always easy though, as people have a wide range of backgrounds and experiences that influence their opinions and beliefs.    

Here are three strategies to help your teen navigate conversations with people from different backgrounds and help them be more open to alternative viewpoints. Adults may want to consider using these to model for young people as well! 

Help them understand their story and listen to others

Teens benefit when people know how they see themselves and how they feel about their lives. So help them learn more about their background and their community and be confident and proud about sharing their story. That way, they can be open to the life experiences of others. “It’s significant for teens to share stories about themselves because each life is valuable, and each life brings something important,” says Riana Elyse Anderson, Ph.D. LCP, Fellow at Stanford’s Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Anderson, currently on scholarly leave as Assistant Professor, Health Behavior & Health Education, School of Public Health, at the University of Michigan adds, “And as listeners, they have to overcome any bias or prejudice in order to listen to and truly understand others.”

It's really a question of what are the things that we value most? And for many of us life and the ability to live life well is a core value we can talk more about with another.

Find core values and build from there

Dr. Anderson says when your teen is thinking about ways to understand where other people are coming from in terms of their point of view, the key is to find commonalities. “It’s really a question of what are the things that we value most? And for many of us life and the ability to live life well is a core value we can talk more about with another.” Talking about goals or aspirations is a good and effective way for your teen to build an interesting conversation with another person.  

Work through disagreements

Disagreements are a part of life, whether it’s with a family member or a friend. Those disagreements can be even more complicated when dealing with someone from a  different background. Tell your teen that when they’re having a discussion with someone and disagree with what they’re saying, try to stay composed and take the time to process what the other person is saying. Even though they don’t agree with them, they should try their best to remain intellectually humble and understand the other person’s position. Then they can calmly state their own. If the discussion starts getting heated, try to bring the temperature down by changing the topic, or politely end the conversation. “Not every conversation may be for every person you encounter,” says Dr. Anderson. And that’s OK!

About LaShieka Hunter

LaShieka Hunter is a health, parenting, and entertainment writer living on Long Island, NY. Her work has appeared in The New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Essence; Dr. Oz The Good Life; Men’s Health; and Ebony.

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