Recently I visited the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., and made an interesting discovery. After the original congressional library was destroyed by the British in 1814, the library was restored the next year with the purchase of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library of 6,487 books. This may sound impressive until you understand that now the Library of Congress receives some 15,000 books … per day!
Wise parents remind their children that although the Digital Age can take them wide in relationships, it will typically not take them deep. Atsushi Sanju, a cognitive neuroscientist writes, “A rich mode of communication is possible after making eye contact. It amplifies your ability to compute all the signals so you are able to read the other person’s brain.”
Simply put, there is no substitute for authentic face-to-face interaction in building relationships of depth, authenticity, empathy and vulnerability. Some would argue that by contrast the Digital Age tempts teens to settle for a curated version of life that is less connected and more about comparing, posturing and marketing. Perhaps we should call it “anti-social media.”
Following are some ways to coach teens to sharpen their abilities to initiate and grow strong friendships:
- Learn to be a great interviewer by asking open-ended questions that cannot be answered with “yes” or “no”;
- Focus fully on the conversation on hand, not being sidetracked by checking the phone or social media constantly;
- Play communication games in the family. One example is “High/Low” where members take turns telling about their high point and low point of the day.
- Work on calling people by name in conversation;
- Look people in the eyes and smile;
- Slow down to make time to allow conversations to flow;
- Tell your own stories with vulnerability, humility and brevity.
Above all, remind your teens that Jesus modeled both genuine interest in his friends as well as a willingness to be vulnerable and open with them (John 15:12-15).