Meeting new people can be very stressful for children and teens. Even some adults can get sweaty palms just thinking about it. You know and admire those people blessed with the ability to “work” a room with ease. Maybe you don’t have an extremely outgoing personality or could this describe your child? Fear not…understanding the basics of becoming a good conversationalist will make it less traumatic. A little preparation and planning goes a long way.
“Networking” is an essential soft skill for business people. What does this have to do with your children and teens? They can begin to acquire this skill right now within their milieu preparing them for the future. Let’s say that they have been invited to a party and the only person who is known to them is the host/hostess. Here are some tips to help ease them into meeting new people at the event:
- List of topics – beforehand, suggest that your children begin to think about possible topics that could generate into interesting questions such as sports, school interests, etc.
- Filter your content – simply put, this means that the topics of conversation are appropriate for the age group or people present. For example, your children wouldn’t ask their grandparents about the playlist on their iPod. But that question would be perfect for their peers.
- Leave the person with a good impression – no swearing, telling jokes in bad taste, or complaining/gossiping about anyone. Your children should present their best authentic selves.
- Avoid filler words – as your children and teens mature, encourage them to get out of the habit of saying words like “ummm”, “like, well, ya know….”, “ah….”.
- Active listening – show them positive body language that tells a person they are listening, for example, eye contact, nodding the head, smiling, asking feedback questions to show they understand.
- Don’t terminate or dominate the conversation – advise them to avoid answering questions with “Yes” or “No”…these are conversation “killers”. Remind them that a conversation is like a tennis match…a little talking about yourself and a little listening to the other person’s responses.
- End the conversation politely – ending conversations politely help your children learn how to create boundaries. Obey obvious body language from the person, for instance if they are looking over your child’s shoulder, slightly backing away and nodding their head. If this occurs, say “Thank you, (so and so), I enjoyed meeting you. Hopefully, we can get together sometime after school.” If someone makes your child or teen feel uncomfortable, he/she can use this tactic, also, by saying “I think I’d like to get another hot dog. See you later”.
The more your children and teens practice meeting new people the more their confidence and comfort level will increase. They can try out these ideas to start conversations with grandparents or other extended family members that they don’t know well. And of course, remind them not to ask the questions as if they are interrogating someone!!
Let’s encourage our children & teens with the thought – “I’m meeting new people who perhaps may become awesome friends in the future”.
Maria Doll, certified Etiquette Trainer for Children & Teens
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