Ep 73: “You ALWAYS do that!”

Cynthia Kane, author of How to Communicate Like a Buddhist and Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist, sat down with me to discuss the communication tactics she has learned during her journey as a Bodhisattva. Her techniques are perfect for getting out of escalating arguments and questionable conversations!

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Full show notes

Anyone who works in a team knows that proper communication can be a nightmare for adults, but communicating with teenagers is a whole different ballgame! How many times have you wanted to talk to your child about something small, but it somehow blew up into a huge argument? This can happen when parents and their children don’t have the best communication practices in order. It’s no one’s intention to get into an argument, but sometimes the small stuff can turn into a screaming match. That’s where Buddhist thinking can offer some sage advice…

Mindfulness and listening techniques encourage us to take a step back and better understand how communicating with teenagers can become confrontational. Maybe your child is just having a bad day and they’ve been stuck in a defensive mood to cope with it. Perhaps you didn’t realize you used a sharp tone by accident. In any case, it’s important to understand why communicating with teenagers can get out of hand so easily.

While teens are still growing up, hormonal and social changes in their lives can make it harder to navigate problems with a level head. One wrong word might prompt a heated outburst! This hair-trigger mindset can complicate even the simplest ways of communicating with teenagers.

Before you know it, you’re getting pulled into their emotionally-charged, surface-level vocabulary of insults. If you ground them, you’re drawing out spans of resentment without improving communication habits. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Cynthia Kane, author of How to Communicate Like a Buddhist and Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist has some techniques that can help you master the art of communicating with teenagers.

I spoke with Cynthia about communicating with teenagers this week to better understand why conversations with your teen can get out of control. In her own life, Cynthia’s search for the Bodhisattva –a person dedicated to helping others ease their suffering– led her on a journey to become one herself. As a certified meditation and mindfulness instructor, she’s taught tens of thousands of people to speak with kindness, honesty, and confidence through her books. If anyone knows about communicating with teenagers, it’s Cynthia.

Cynthia’s work has appeared in several esteemed publications, including the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, and Woman’s Day Magazine. Through her bestselling DailyOM courses, workshops, and Intentional Communication Training Program, she has helped thousands of others transform how they are communicating with teenagers, so I was especially excited to hear what she had to say about communicating with teenagers.

In our interview, we talk about three central aspects to Cynthia’s approach:
  1. Self-Talk
  2. Speech
  3. Silence
By using these Buddhist principles of Right Speech, Cynthia walked me through how we can speak to ourselves and others in positive, reaffirming ways. I knew the Buddha was knowledgeable, but who would have guessed Buddhist teachings had so much to say about communicating with teenagers?

Let’s Talk About Self-Talk

The first step of Cynthia’s Bodhisattva approach to communicating with teenagers is to listen to yourself. Though practicing honesty can be found throughout Cynthia’s entire method of communication, she says that it’s important to start with your own truths. Self-awareness really is the beginning of being able to interact with others in a more compassionate way.

Unfortunately, many teens don’t yet have the experience to reflect on how everyone is feeling in the moment let alone take stock of their emotional status. They aren’t always able to observe your intentions, so they act out or behave disrespectfully, causing conversations to escalate to a place that no one wants. In this way, when parents understand self-talk and can demonstrate their feelings clearly, communication gets a whole lot smoother.

For example, when parents and teenagers bottle up how they feel about a certain behavior, they’ll play the game of saying, “Nothing’s wrong,” when we know that’s not true. Using that phrase to dance around an issue that is clearly of importance can only muddy the waters and prevent you from effectively communicating with teenagers. This is why honesty and self-reflection are so important. When you listen to yourself, you can be more honest about how you feel and effectively cut through harmful defensive verbiage.

We often avoid our own negative feelings because they’re too uncomfortable to deal with, and this can block productive meaningful conversation from occurring. By listening to ourselves, we can start to become aware of the restrictive language that we implement when communicating with teenagers.

To hear about how Speech and Silence play into communication with teenagers, don’t forget to listen to the whole episode!

What is Restrictive Language?

Restrictive language is the kind of verbiage that causes us to feel stressed, overwhelmed, uncomfortable, and even incapable. As a parent, listening to yourself is how you can catch when you have this negative mindset.

Cynthia mentions that this is an aspect of communicating with teenagers that a lot of parents are unaware of, but can make a huge impact at home. Once you’ve identified restrictive language in how you think, you can be more present when communicating with teenagers and have a genuine of conversation. Negativity is a total buzzkill when it comes to communication with teenagers.

Don’t Forget––Listening is Part of Communication!

Listening maintains several effective applications that you can implement as a parent while trying to communicate with your teenager. For one, listening to others improves your ability to notice when you’re not being present, like when you’re shopping at the grocery or are too self-involved in an argument. These situations can cause you to tune out details when communicating with teenagers.

There’s so Much More!

In practice, Kane’s insights help people more truthfully focus on their individual needs and build avenues of communication. These are crucial areas for parents to focus on if they want to improve and understand the relationship they have with their teen.

Empathy and honesty are amazing tools for building trust between parents and teenagers, but, just like many other methods of communication, they need to be practiced. It all begins with an acute awareness of one’s own self-talk, and Kane offers a unique process to communicate your needs and wants more openly.

In addition to canes special approach to communications listeners will discover:
  • Why silence is a key part of effective communication
  • Shutting down toxic teenage gossip
  • The importance of different kinds of speech in our everyday lives
  • How to combat the “shoulds” and “coulds” that lead parents to compare themselves to others
  • The different (over)uses of sorry and the power of apologizing
  • Managing talk that creates feelings of “less than” or “greater than”
I’m thankful that Cynthia shared her insight with us this week about Buddhist-inspired strategies for communicating with teenagers. She has an abundance of wisdom for parents to learn from, and amazing, practical tools to help structure effective communication with teenagers. I found Cynthia’s Bodhisattva practices to be warm and enlightening and I know you will, too!

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Ep 73: “You ALWAYS do that!”
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