What does it mean to be agreeable? My mother would call it using one’s manners. Manners and Etiquette get parents into trouble. The teenager starts to remember all the times while they were wearing braces when the parent said, “close your mouth.” The gentle (but annoying) brushing of the fingers across the napkin at the dinner table just as the teen sat down. Even worse, the “Say Thank You” spoken loudly and before the teen could even open their mouths with the thanks they were about to deliver. So if the conversation starts with I want to talk about your manners, the teen might have baggage to unpack while the parent is providing new sound advice.
So it might be easier to talk to your teen about the importance of being agreeable. What does that mean? Being agreeable during a conversation means coming to the discussion with a positive attitude. This can include not interrupting, being respectful, willing to find common ground, and keeping the tone positive.
Being agreeable is essential if you hope to create a connection while having a conversation. Being agreeable while nurturing this budding relationship will build rapport and trust. When the recipient interacts with someone warm, friendly, and easy to talk to, they are more likely to open up. Additionally, being agreeable can reduce conflicts early on, making the interaction more harmonious.
The Keys to Being Agreeable
Interrupting a person is disrespectful and dismissive. When a teen attempts to connect with other teens, interruptions cause others to feel they are not listening, do not care, and are only focused on themselves. This is not an adult the teen is connecting with but another socially naive person, still learning to navigate conversations and connections.
Interrupting also breaks up the flow of the conversation, making it harder for either party to convey their ideas and thoughts effectively. By avoiding interruptions, the teen shows respect for the other person’s thoughts, ideas, and person.
How to Get Teens to Stop Interrupting
First, it is important to emulate the skill yourself. When you interrupt your teen, you teach them that it is not only OK but also that you don’t respect them or their needs. If your teen starts jabbering when you are trying to finish dinner quietly, say, “Darling, this sounds important. Give me a second to wrap this up so I can pay attention. In the meantime, can you put drinks on the table.” it’s essential that when you you are finished you bring the conversation back the child’s topic. Show them you meant it. “Now, Henry, let’s get back to what you were saying?”
Second, start calling the teen on it when they interrupt.
- “Thank you, now before I was interrupted, I was saying”
- “I am sorry, Cathy; what were you saying before Betty interrupted?
- “Hang on, I know this is important, but let’s let Cindy finish.”
Finally, do not allow interrupting to be effective. If you stop what you are doing and give the interrupter your attention if the small reminders don’t work, use point it out “You are interrupting, and that is rude.” And then ignore that child.
Being judgemental will create tension in the conversation leading to conflict. The recipient will most likely become defensive and less likely to open up and be honest about their thoughts and feelings. Judgments can be a simple “eww, that sounds gross” to a “That’s the stupidest idea I have ever heard.” An award-winning book by Queen Raina is a wonderful intro to very young children about being judgemental.
By avoiding judgment and showing empathy and respect, your child is more likely to have an agreeable and productive conversations, which lead to connections.
How to get teens to stop judging
First, again, be a role model for non-judgemental conversations. This is perfect for your after-school conversations. Sometimes a teen doesn’t want to talk after school because they just got off their 7-hour day and want to vent. Mom or dad sees a problem and what to help their child through it. Right or wrong, this can make us teens feel judged. If your child comes home claiming their Science teacher is “The Worst Ever,” before you start trying to help your teen through today’s crisis, ask them, “Hey sweetie, do you want me to listen, or are you asking for help.” This very non-judgemental statement lets the teen know this is a safe space to vent. If the teens tell you that they just discovered that pouring acid on their face will help remove acne, figure out how you can lead them to the correct conclusion with questions versus the anticipated freak out. If they don’t listen, feel free to freak out eventually.
Much of being a good conversationalist, and being agreeable, from body language to eye contact, comes down to respect. But being respectful during a conversation also means making an effort to understand social and cultural differences.
I was on a college tour, and the guide, who had been open concerning her needs-based scholarship, talked about the different dining options on campus that included room and board. One of the boys on the campus asked her, “Why do you keep talking about that? There are restaurants all over this city that would be better than eating on campus!” There are so many things wrong with this statement, but mostly it ignored a socio-economic difference between the two people talking. Whether he intended to or not, he shut down the conversation. She was a guide, so she did continue, but there was no chance for these two people who would probably attend the same college to connect.
If the person you are talking to doesn’t shake your hand, doesn’t drink, or doesn’t want their photos taken, these could be eccentricities or cultural differences. Wait until you are connected before delving into areas that might be culturally sensitive.
How to get teens to show respect
Talk about experiences with people of different cultures. Some of the stories can be funny.
My mom talks about a business trip where she was on a short British Airways flight out of London. A loud American was screaming at the flight attendant, “what do you mean you only serve tea? No one drinks tea; I need a Coke!” Mom says she sank in her chair and prayed the flight attendants didn’t realize she was also an American. Funny stories stay with us and help us learn.
If you see your teen being insensitive, bring it up later, when you are alone, if possible, but bring it up.
Create a Positive Vibe:
Avoid sarcasm early on. Yes, it’s a teen’s best friend, but start with positive, optimistic language when creating a connection.
Try to inject humor. Humor is a great way to lighten the mood, reduce tension and create a more positive interaction. Even a horrible pun can lighten the mood.
Gratitude. I appreciate you taking the time; This meant a lot to me, and simply I appreciate you. These are so important in a conversation. We often think, “thanks” that was great.”
How to get teens to create that vibe
All of these skills can be role modeled by parents. As your child learns how to lead conversations by being agreeable, they can begin to balance building those connections and also having a voice. Everyone should be able to stand up for themselves. The difference is determining the goal of the conversation. Are you trying to get to know someone, and possibly make a connection? Or are you defending your views on the upcoming student election with your best friend? Does your friend have someone to listen? Or is this a good time to be silly. Being able to step in and out of the roles necessary is a great skill as well as being agreeable.
As you are playing the Conversation Game, make sure to note when your child uses these skills. If you are playing the game at the dinner table, you can even award points for emulating these skills.
If you have ideas, reach out to me below. As always, I look forward to working with you.