Active listening is therapeutic. It is the most effective form of conflict resolution. Many things can create conflict, but what sustains it is the feeling on the part of at least one of the parties that they have not been heard. They have not been listened to. We have not “heard their pain”. There has been a failure of empathy. That is why the use of force to resolve conflict is so profoundly self-defeating.
Improving at-risk teens’ mental health through active listening is a valuable and impactful approach. Here are some tips on how to effectively use listening as a tool to support teens’ mental well-being.
- Create a Safe and Judgment-Free Space: Establish an environment where teens feel comfortable talking without fear of criticism or judgment. Make it clear that you are there to listen and support, not to offer unsolicited advice.
Practice Active Listening: When teens share their thoughts or feelings, give them your full attention. Maintain eye contact, nod, and use verbal cues (such as "I understand," "Tell me more," or "How did that make you feel?") to show that you're engaged and genuinely interested in what they're saying.
Empathize: Show empathy by trying to understand and relate to their experiences. Let them know that you can appreciate their feelings, even if you haven't experienced the same situation. Use phrases like "I can see why that would be tough" or "I'm here for you."
Avoid Jumping to Solutions: While it's natural to want to help, resist the urge to immediately offer solutions or advice. Sometimes, teens just need to be heard and understood. They may find their own solutions as they talk through their thoughts and feelings.
Reflect and Validate: Repeat back what you've heard to ensure you understand correctly. Validate their emotions by acknowledging their feelings and experiences. For example, "It sounds like you're really frustrated by that situation."
Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage teens to elaborate on their feelings and thoughts by asking open-ended questions (questions that illicit more than a one-word answer). This can help them explore their emotions and gain insights into their own experiences.
Respect Their Boundaries and Be Patient: If a teen doesn't want to talk, respect their decision. Let them know you're there for them whenever they're ready.
Encourage Professional Help: If you believe a teen's mental health requires more support than you can provide, encourage them to seek help from a mental health professional. Offer to assist them in finding resources or making appointments.
ARISE has a wonderful resource for those who want to learn to listen to the youth they work with. You can use the material yourself or you can train other adults in your organization as good listeners. You can set up a listening program at the facility where you work or with your own family at home.
LEARN THE IMPORTANT LIFE SKILL OF LISTENING
ARISE “You Bet I’m Listening“
Share this Listening message with your family:
ARISE Positivity Card #58