Communication: Disconnect the Lips and Engage the Ears!

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

I wrote this last year and it still holds true for me so I have taken a few bits out and put it out there again. Putting this in context I write weekly articles reflecting on a TV show I was involved with as a relationship ‘expert’ in New Zealand.

What is the secret to a successful relationship? It feels like a complete cop out and pretty unoriginal when communication tops the list. Increasingly people on the receiving end are just as disappointed, mainly because they are hoping for a quick and long lasting fix. If I was to say, ‘skip twice on your right foot, once on your left, tap your head and rub your gut anticlockwise, whilst singing wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends (spice girls…I think)’. People would race away in delight, and hopefully a tad confused, because it required minimal effort and investment, and professed immediate results. Better still if I was to tell them they were perfect in every way. The challenges they speak of are solely the problem held by their partner, and this wee exercise is one for their partner to complete and the other to watch. The go to line for breaking up, ‘its not you it’s me’ has long gone, it’s now, ‘ I’m flawless and you’re not’ via Instagram of course.

When I talk about communication I’m not referring to what we say, more how good we are at shutting up and actually listening. We have all become really good at monologues, which means to deliver our message our way. Emotional vocabulary has also increased, but perhaps we get to hear it a lot and even in everyday life, but we don’t get to see it in action. I got to hear a lot how committed, genuine, honest, modest folk were, but I didn’t get to see it as much as I would have liked. Some struggle, however with entering into a dialogue. This is where we listen just as much as we speak and are open to change but also to be changed. The hard thing now is telling the difference between the two, as people have become pretty good at making all the right noises. We hear from most of the individuals stuff along the lines of, ‘when you…, I feel…’ It then becomes a rally of the same exchange, with both feeling they have delivered themselves clearly but the other person is plain ignoring them. Then it becomes a case of winning and losing, which is never going to bode well. We see then someone going for the smash, but not for the point, but to take their opponent out and humiliate them in the process.

You combine a shift from the mouth to the ears with being prepared to open your eyes, then folk may well be pleasantly surprised with what they get to see and hear. On the same note you may even make a more informed decision on who is right or wrong.

Connecting through Disconnection

Prevalence of mental health problems continues to be a challenge, often beyond the capacity to keep up, especially for most school counsellors. What if, rather than a mental health epidemic we are in the thick of a cultural crisis for adolescents. The challenge being, as adults and professionals, many are blindingly fast to formulate an assessment and diagnosis. Folk aren’t so open to  closing the text books and inquiring further into the why’s as it looks and sounds on the ground.

For each of us, the incredible uniqueness brings a collage of opinions and philosophies on the how’s, when’s and what’s of just about anything. The moment a penny dropped for me was after speaking to a male teenage client of mine. As part of my thesis I conducted a interview reflecting on a programme I had created targeting the reduction of adolescent depression. The quantitative data made for comfort reading as it affirmed, with bells and whistles, the efficacy of the programme I had developed.The qualitative side of things presented a real headache to start off with, and the participants clearly didn’t get the memo. What I had was three different, tried and tested measures for depression symptomatology showing clear improvements pre and post intervention. The participants I had in front of me mirrored through both sight and sound the positive changes the data suggested. It was the absolute commitment to being depressed that rang confusingly loud and clear. No better example was that offered by the client I mentioned. Without skipping a beat he reflected that he ‘did better than he wanted to’. Thank heavens it was a multi tasking head space day, as this statement has stayed with me ever since.

Psychiatrist

After five years and thousands of adolescent clients later my observations and experiences have continued to build around this topic, as both a an issue around barriers to engaging, but primarily around how to both identify risk and support positive change and increase resiliency to prevent escalating challenges in the first place.

Apart from societies eagerness to have a label and the discussion around increased diagnosis vs increase actual growth, I believe we are in the middle of a cultural shift where adolescents are connecting through disconnection. This is nothing new if you consider drugs, alcohol and gangs etc. but technology and social media is new (ish) and it’s impact-or exploration of- is a work in progress.

social-media-technology-teenagers

This topic is too huge to discuss fully within a couple of hundred words and a funky picture. One example of what this looks like is when I reflect on the substantial increase in students that confidently march into my office, outlining with immense energy their newly diagnosed Depression, Anxiety and ADHD, and then ordering the first of six CBT interventions, before looking at me expectantly and my return look of surprise.

We are now seeing social groups developing from the common grounding of having an emotional difficulty, so connecting through disconnection. Social media offers extensive input into what this may look and sound like, and all too often to excess.

When adolescents are embarking on the confusing journey that is identity formation, I feel it is really important to support and introduce as many positive connections as possible, otherwise they will find connections elsewhere, and in this technological age, that tends not to end so well.

This observation refers to an emerging adolescent culture, and certainly not a universal broad brush of all adolescents that visit a Counsellor, Psychologist or Psychotherapist. What it perhaps highlights is the real need for caution in terms of knee jerk diagnosis, to ensure professionals don’t create the very problem we strive to overcome.