4 things to do when communicating with your teenagers and young adult children that are withholding information

Jul 12, 2018

4 things to do when communicating with your teenagers and young adult children that are withholding information, and remember they’re all doing it.

  1. Release the judgement. Consider that 99.99999% of people withhold information.
  2. Most people SKOWL. Secret Keep, Omit, Withhold, or Lie. We do it to keep ourselves and others safe. Do you do it? You likely have. Think of family, co-workers, religious friends, acquaintances. You’ll likely find people you’ve SKOWLed with on some level.

    I haven’t met a person who doesn’t — I’m 57 and have met thousands of people from many walks of life and different cultures at different ages. It seems the younger the person, the less they SKOWL. As we become teenagers we’ve learnt it well in most cases. We all have different fears. release the negative judgement and honor their decision to SKOWL and keep safe.

    1. Put yourself in their shoes. Remember being at that stage of life! Allow them the same right you gave yourself to SKOWL. I haven’t met someone who didn’t SKOWL with their parents on some level. Remember yourself at that stage of life. Think about your SKOWL’s. Remember that things come out as we mature and become more confident adults. Both me and my kids have shared things later in life that we SKOWLed with at one time.


    1. Accept you don’t know everything. Honor their thoughts and feelings about protecting themselves and their parents. Realize you probably don’t know everything that’s going on for them in their life right now. You don’t know what they’re thinking and feeling, even if you think you do. What they’re thinking and feeling matters and until you find out exactly why they are withholding you are guessing or assuming and it can get you into trouble with relationships. Realize you don';t have the whole story. People SKOWL because they want safety. Honor the fact they want to feel safe. 


    1. If you’re going to have the conversation, Plan, Plan, Plan.

    Talk about the best way to approach the subject with communication specialists or mentors. If someone you know has had success with these types of conversations consult them. Don’t consult with people who haven’t been successful themselves at this type of sensitive conversation unless you’re searching for what NOT to do.

    Planning: Ask yourself lots of questions and then write down the best way to approach things. Consider your HIP (Human Interaction Process) in contemplating the situation. Consider what their HIP might be. Ask:

    Exploring the HIP: What did I see or hear? What are my thoughts about it? How do I truly feel? What is my intention? How do I want to act — what would I like to say? If I act and say that, what might happen? Is that what I want? What’s the best way for me to act and what's the best things for me to say?

    What did they witness that causes them to SKOWL? What might their thoughts be? How might they feel? What might their intention be?

    Remember your guess on what their HIP is might be wrong. Don’t assume you know them perfectly. You will have to ask to clarify to be sure you understand what’s going on for them. Realize they may still lie. Don’t judge them. Honor their fear and plan to tell them something that might help them feel safe sharing. You are still in the planning stage here.

    Write down your HIP. Write down the questions you want to ask them about  their HIP.

  3. What did you witness that causes you to SKOWL?

  4. What are your thoughts and perceptions about this?

  5. How do you truly feel? I’m okay to honor without negative judgement whatever it is. I remember feeling that way myself.

  6. What do you want?

  7. Put all these questions on a list you can cross off as you go through the conversation. Be prepared. Don’t forget to ask.

    Having the conversation:

    Consider having an unbiased mediator present that can withhold their negative judgments about any situation.

    In the conversation, ask 1st about and their HIP and then share your own. The most important part of the conversation is to ask about them.

  8. Seek 1st to understand then to be understood. As the conversation evolves keep coming back to asking about their HIP as new things are spoken.

    Continue to ask throughout the conversation things like this: After you heard what I just said, what are your thoughts, feelings and what do you want?

    Clarify to make sure you are getting it right. Tell them what you heard, about  what they heard or saw and make sure you are correct. Tell them what you heard about what their thoughts are. Ask them if you are correct. Tell them what you heard about what their feelings are. Ask them if you are correct. Tell them what you heard about what their intentions are — what they want. Ask them if you are correct. Do this until you get it right and they say yes 4 times.

    This gets them to say yes authentically. This prepares both of you for finding common ground and an eventual solution going forward.

    After you understand their HIP, share yours and ask to make sure they are interpreting correct.

    In this process you will likely find common ground and make the relationship stronger, providing you can internally release or withhold negative judgments.

    Good luck. Have a wonderful day.



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