In February 2012 I partnered with a school for at-risk teens to start a pilot program teaching/training in conflict resolution, communication skills, and anger management. I have 3-groups, each with 4 to 6 students. They are a multi-ethnic group between the ages of 15 and 20-years old, with their own personalities and their own stories.
How do you reach this particular group of teens to help them understand the importance of developing anger management techniques or conflict resolution skills now, rather than later? I don’t have all the answers, every group is different. But what I do know is that I have to be myself, and allow them, actually, guide them to show me who they really are. Most of them are angry, lonely, frustrated, confused, or just ‘working the program.’ Don’t lose heart, there are those who are hopeful, they have a problem but don’t know what to do about it. They’ve screwed, but they are determined to keep moving forward and not let their past determine their future.
THE LISTENING GAME
This type of group requires finesse and 1-particular skill that everyone has but we seldom use. The skill – LISTENING. I listen! I listen actively. I have found that the less I talk the deeper they will go. I ask a question and they will give me an answer, sometimes the standard answer. So then I wait. They start to get anxious, looking away, and then… when the silence becomes unbearable to them, they start to talk. Not from the mind, but from their heart. And this is when true dialogue can begin. This is when we can start making our way to the heart of the matter.
I have come to appreciate these young people. They mumble when they talk. Their communication skills are lacking, and if we weren’t in the type of environment that we are, I’m pretty sure that their language would leave a lot to be desired. However, they are respectful and polite because that is what is required of them in that place. They continue to test me, even after 4-weeks. But I believe I’m winning them over, one by one.
DID YOU GET IT?
One particular group session we were discussing the meaning of the Win/Win Approach, Win/Lose, and Compromise. Young people are not given the credit that they deserve sometimes. You might think they’re not listening, but they are. Point in case, one student compared compromise to being …straight up trading!” Indicating that “…you might not like what you’re going to get or what you have to give up but that’s the name of the game called trade.”
As serious as these teens can be sometimes, there is always humor “Did you get it Ms. Eudine, or do you want me to repeat what I said?” They smile. [I think: smart alec.] The group bursts into laughter and the mood shifts. I guess they did get it. The seed has been planted.
Stayed tuned to this page, and I will keep you posted on the my progress.
Until next time…