If you’re struggling with frenemies or bullies, you’re not alone. Here’s what you need to know …
Transcript and Take-Aways
Adolescence can be a really difficult time socially for a lot of people, so if you’re doing it tough at the moment know that you aren’t alone, and most importantly, the tough times will end.
Some people can become hard work to deal with during adolescence – they can make your life miserable for no reason at all. There’s a reason for this, although of course none of that makes it okay.
During adolescence, it’s more important than ever for people to feel like they’re part of a group. As humans, we always need to feel part of a group. When we’re younger, the most important tribe is our family tribe. As we grow older this dependency will start to turn towards a peer tribe. Your family will still be as important as ever, but for a while you’ll be experimenting with discovering the independent adult you’re going to be.
For some people, the only way they can feel part of the group is to be the head of it, so they’ll put other people down to feel on top.
If you’re feeling like you don’t fit in, if you’re feeling excluded or lonely, know that it won’t always be like this. People grow up, and they change into decent humans. People won’t always be awful, and they won’t always be nasty, mean, and self-centered.
Hold on tight to who you are. Your experiences, your history, your beautiful flaws and imperfections will all make up the amazing adults you’ll be one day. You are who you are because of your history, not despite it. You’re who you are because of your flaws and your vulnerabilities and your differences. Not despite them.
It’s these vulnerabilities, and the mistakes that you make, and your differences that will make you interesting and will open the way for people really connect with you later on. None of us are perfect, and none of us want to be with people who think they’re perfect. We want to be with people who are real and honest about who they are, and who are able to come into relationships with an open heart and an open mind.
If you are struggling now, don’t change who you are. You are brilliant, and strong, and beautiful, and courageous. You’re amazing. There will come a time where you will feel surrounded by love and people who get you, and people who want to know you because of everything you are and everything you’ve ever been.
Adolescence can be fraught with difficult friendships and difficult people. Sometimes you’ll need to be your own hero – but that’s okay because you are brave, brilliant and you have everything you need to do that.
Tough conversations can wear the strongest of warriors down – but they don’t have to. Here’s how to get want you want from a tough conversation, without damage or argument. (This skill is like a little bit of magic!)
In any relationship, there comes a point, probably many points, when you have to have tough conversations about something you need.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking the only way to respond to this is in one of two ways – say nothing and keep going as though nothing has happened, or ask aggressively for what you need. The problem with keeping quiet is that it might be looking after the other person, but it can be really unhealthy for you. It’s also likely to be unhealthy for the relationship because eventually, that need that you have will keep pushing for attention. That can end with an explosion, a huge argument, or someone just walking away from the relationship. The problem with being aggressive and screaming for what you need this is that it puts the other person into the position where they have to defend themselves or shut down to protect themselves. That makes it less likely you’ll be heard.
In any relationship, the more you push against someone, the more likely it is that they’ll push back. This is because we humans always need balance, to keep ourselves from toppling over in any relationship.
A powerful way to maximise your chances of getting what you want is to yield a little. This doesn’t mean agreeing or giving in. It means is giving the other person a little bit of what they need, so they are more open to giving you what you need. It means acknowledging, validating and compromising, and letting the other person know that you want to find a resolution that will work for both of you.
This can be really difficult, especially if they’ve done something that’s upset you, but remember, this is about getting you what you need.
For example, if you’re wanting to talk to your parents about a party you’d like to go to, try to start the conversation by acknowledging what they might need. More than likely, with parents, whatever they do is done from love and the need to keep you safe. Start by acknowledging this with something like, “I get that you don’t want me to go to the party because you’re worried I won’t be safe, I really get that.” Then you come in with something to show you’re open to compromise, “What if I promised to be home by a certain time?”
This doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but by yielding you’re more likely to get more of what you want more of the time.
The more open you can be to the other person’s view, – and remember, that doesn’t mean agreeing with it, it means being open to it, listening to it, acknowledging it – the more likely it is that you will get more of what you want.
Here are three secrets for making it more likely that you’ll get what you want from a conversation. (And who doesn’t want that!)
Sometimes we have to have tough conversations. Here’s how to maximise your changes of getting what you need:
Start calm – even if you’re a fiesty bundle of fury inside. When you’re feeling furious, anxious, jealous, scared – any of the big feels – it’s easy to come into a conversation showing those big feelings. The problem with this is that it can make it more likely that the other person will feel attacked or blamed. As soon as this happens, it makes it more likely that the other person will yell (fight) or shut down (flee). This is a defensive thing. As soon as the brain senses that we might be under attack, it goes into defence mode and gets us organised to protect ourselves. That shutting down and not listening, walking away from the conversation, hanging up, or yelling back. People often attack to defend themselves.
You can feel one way, and act another. You can be angry and calm; or jealous and generous; scared and brave. This doesn’t mean ‘not feeling’, it means not letting your feelings get in the way of you getting what you need. Remember you only have to do it for the few minutes while you’re starting the conversation. The easier and safer you make it for someone to stay in conversation with you, the more likely it is that he or she will be able to hear you and give you what you need. Tt’s something that you’re doing a little bit for the other person and a lot for you.
Acknowledge how the other person is feeling. Acknowledging and validating the other person doesn’t mean agreeing with them. It’s another important way to help make it easier and safer for the other person to stay in conversation with you. This makes it more likely that you’ll be heard, which in turn increases your chances of getting what you need. Think about what it is the other person might be needing from you, or what they’re trying to say and acknowledge that. This might sound something like, “I understand this is how you feel,” or “I can see that this is really important to you,” or, “I understand you feel like I’m doing this and its hurting you”.
Remember – just because you’re right, doesn’t mean the other person is wrong. And in the same way, just because the other person is wrong, doesn’t mean you are completely right. Often it’s about points of view, we see things differently. We have different needs, different wants, different histories and they all come in. We’re going to disagree on things. Normally in any conversation or when the things we need conflict both people are a little bit right. So if you can find what it is in the other person that feels ‘right’ or important for them, even if it doesn’t feel right to you, that will increase your chances of being heard.
Name what’s in it for the other person if they listen to you. If you’re having a difficult conversation with someone, point out what he or she can gain from listening to you. Maximise your changes of being heard by letting the other person know that you’re not just in it for you, you’re in it for them too. So, you have an invested interest in what they want and you’re going to do what you can to make sure their needs are met.
During adolescence your brain undergoes a massive renovation to get you ready for adulthood. It’s brilliant. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of those changes and be stronger, braver, and wiser.
Anger is part of being human and it has a very good reason for being there. When it’s managed well, anger can work hard for you. Let it own you though, and there’ll often be bucketloads of trouble. Here’s what you need to know to make it work for you.
The need to feel safe is primal. We’re wired to fight or flee anything that presents itself as a threat - and shame, punishment, judgement, exclusion, humiliation all count as threat, even if they come with loads of love.
When our kids or teens mess up - which they will, because they’re humans not robots - the way we respond can open them up to our influence or shut them down to it. It can expand the fight and the disconnection, or it can shrink it. In time they will learn to be more in control of their urge for or flight, but for now, we will need to lead the way. (Of course, we are also human, and sometimes despite our biggest efforts to stay calm, we will step into the ring rather than wait for them to step out. We’re human. It’s going to happen. And that’s okay.)
If we want them to be open to our influence, we first need to calm their active amygdala (the seat of anxiety and big emotion) by sending the message that we aren’t a threat. We can do this by validating their feelings or the need behind their behaviour (if we know what that is).
Validation doesn’t mean agreeing with them, and it doesn’t mean approving of their behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we want to understand the world through their lens. ‘I can see you’re really upset about this.’ ‘It sounds as though you’re worried I’m going to get in your way. I can see this is important to you. I really want to understand. Can you talk to me about this?’
When we do this, it sends a message to the protective, powerful, emotional amygdala that it’s safe and that it can back down. This will start to switch off the need to fight us or flee (ignore) us and open them up to our influence, support, warmth and guidance.
It also doesn’t mean giving them a free pass on ‘unadorable’ behaviour. What it means is letting them know that we see them, and that we understand there is something important they need. When things are calm, they will be much more open to exploring their decisions, their behaviour, the consequences of that (including any consequences for them), and what they can do differently in the future.