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Positive Communication with Young People Matters

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Positive communication with young people is a skill that everyone should master. It sets the stage for relationship building and developing trust. The key is to be congruent. Be positive in your outward presentation and feel positive inside, too.

The art of communication is an essential competency in positive and challenging conversations in youth work. You have heard it before, it’s not what you say that matters, but how you say it. Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

To begin with, let’s take a look at communication skills that help young people feel heard and valued.

Strategies for positive communication with young people

You know how good it feels when someone communicates with you in a positive, non-judgmental way. Whether it’s in person, virtual, or in writing you can instantly feel when they are respectful. Positive people use a calm and pleasant tone, and they encourage you in their communication approach.

You hear exactly what they are trying to convey, and you feel heard and supported. Even when it’s something sensitive or challenging, you feel respected and valued.

Here are some ways to use positive communication with young people:

  • Be patient
  • Use a gentle tone of voice
  • Keep your body open and relaxed
  • Actively listen
  • Be friendly and personable
  • Be empathetic
  • Remain open minded
  • Focus on strengths
  • Offer to help
  • Show respect
  • Look for the good and share it with them
  • Offer alternatives and options
  • Encourage
  • Welcome feedback
  • Appreciate and celebrate successes
  • Give a compliment
  • Use humor

One final thing, when you are speaking with a young person are you smiling? You can instantly change your entire communication approach simply by smiling. It’s really that easy…try it! Look at yourself in a mirror as you speak and start smiling. Automatically your tone sounds more pleasant and calm.

How positive communication will help in your youth work

Youth work is fast paced. When you are having a tough time, remember how important it is to slow down. Tune into your self-care needs to ensure you show up and be your best.

When a young person experiences your negative tone from the start, they either shut down or feel they need to defend themselves. Positive communication with young people will avoid this scenario.

Another wonderful benefit of positive communication is that it helps prevent dysregulation in young people. What a great approach to set them up for success and be an exceptional youth worker yourself!

How positive communication is beneficial in youth work:

  • Creates a safe space
  • Builds rapport
  • Encourages trust
  • Prevents or resolves issues
  • Provides clarity and direction
  • Increases and improves engagement
  • Creates better relationships
  • Allows them to express their opinions

Positive communication with young people is healthy and essential to your youth work. Ask yourself, what are your intentions and what do you hope to convey? Remember it’s not what you say, but how you say it, that’s key in youth work.

Ready to learn more about how to build and feel confident in your communication skills with young people? YIPA has a great training that is FREE to YIPA members that will help you in your positive communication approach. Check out the training, How to Talk to Porcupines.

Joanne Rice is the member satisfaction specialist of the Youth Intervention Programs Association (YIPA), a non-profit association of youth-serving organizations. We're your source for exceptional, affordable, personal and professional online learning via The Professional Youth Worker.  Join us!