11 Sep 2008

Can SL Be Useful for Teens?

Posted by paulandrew

Today’s New York Times brings a fascinating article, Girl Talk Has it’s Limits, about a phenomenon  called “co-rumination.” The main case that the article looks at is with teenage girls who talk with each other about problems. The article gives the sense that on the one hand, teen girls connecting with one another about their concerns can be a good thing. But the way that they interact makes all the difference.

The article has a great quote from a college student about seeking advice:

It’s like you want to solve a problem whatever it may be, but the advice of one person never satisfies you and you’re constantly on the hunt for more advice.

Here’s my read: a certain degree of dependency can be a useful thing. It’s like in good tango – good connection there is a bit of lean. But can easily get out of hand, to the point where a person is unable to stand on their own two feet anymore. This “hunt for more advice” is a lean gone out of control. And I think it can be made worse by a well-meaning friends who want to be supportive and intend to help somebody feel better, and as a result they give the asked for advice.

But taking this discussion to a higher level, it could just be that this extreme leaning and supporting amongst teen girls is simply a developmental stage. And thus while I can be intense and troubling at the time for some girls, it isn’t something worth freaking out about as a society. I’d add as well that at least they are talking about what they’re going through. How many guys never learn to do that, with anyone? I think it’d be easier to work with somebody who talked too much then one who never shared it all.

What I would propose is that simple training in Supportive Listening could be very beneficial for teens so that they would have a tool with which to give their friends healthy support. I bet everybody can relate to the dilemma of on the one hand wanting to help a friend feel better, but on the other hand being frustrated because of not being able to get anywhere.

An additional bonus for teams who learned Supportive Listening would be that they would get a better understanding of what kind of support to seek themselves. Thus the Supportive Listener understands not just what’s good for others, but what is good for oneself.

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