Monday, October 23, 2017

What are some Youth Empowerment Skills for Healthy Growth

Cavana Faithwalker
Cavana Faithwalker, Empowerment Strategist

Youth is a pretty fluid term.  The U.N. definition for youth is 15-24 years of age.

Let's start with Communication skills (More broadly though this is a part Interpersonal skills)- This involves a circuit or communication loop. It includes but is not limited to; vocabulary  that helps express emotion; I feel angry, scared, frustrated, etc. I use these examples because empowerment starts on the inside 100% of the time.)  When I first got involved in NVC-NonViolent Communication I was surprised at how incapable I was of expressing my emotions, the vocabulary was not there. For years I had thought I was very in touch with myself.  It turned out not so much.

The other part of a Communication loop is composed of listening and managing expectations. Ideally one’s primary goal in speaking is to be understood, not to persuade.  In most cases it is not imperative that we agree with each other.  Respecting the validity of someone else's opposing view may take some practice in today's American culture.  

One’s goal in listening is to understand, not to form an argument.  Express/listen/clarify to understand if need be.  Eg., Clarify hearing; “What I heard you say___________.”  Clarify expression often does not include repeating the same thing but rephrasing.  

No, Nein, Ei, Non, Nao, Yeah right
Out of all the slices of an empowerment pie, one particularly fruitful slice is saying “no." For many of us it is an empowerment skill we must practice. 
Part of communication has to do with responsibility and managing expectations but often overlooked intra-personal communication, or communicating with one's self can be the most important.  Often we offer up a disingenuous, "yes," when, "no" is how we really feel.  It's much easier to go with the flow or to not risk hurting someone else's feelings, raising someone's ire or disappointing someone.  It seems easy and often expedient but each time the cost can be much greater than we anticipate as we deny our inner selves as we become irresponsible to ourselves.  There is a certain amount of religiosity in this area.  I guarantee this is not what your good book means when it "says," deny yourself.

Interpreting Rejection

If you say you need a hug and don’t get one know that it wasn’t the other person’s responsibility to hug you in lieu of denying their responsibility to their own needs and feelings. Also that is how they responded that time, ok and the last ten. In general not getting what you've communicated that you want or need is not a valid indictment against you as an individual.  
If you’d like to know more about developing this here's a place to start NVC Nonviolent Communication.  There are hours of training by its progenitor Marshall Rosenberg and his faithful followers.  In broader peripheral terms- communication is very cultural and geographic and not only includes vocabulary but body language and eye contact, intonation and tradition.  This is not necessarily a “thing” this is just to point out there is more to  communication than words.  Yeah you knew that already.

Develop mindfulness and introspection- the simplest starting point is being quiet and counting breaths/listening a form of meditation.  The idea in counting breaths is to quiet one’s mind and connect to one’s self.  You will start to be self aware more often.  This will aid in connecting to your emotions, communication, decision making, extrapolating and interpolating consequences more fully, self love, compassion, empathy. 
  • Eg.,” They gang teased Fred all morning.  In gym class I laughed and joined in, pushing him in the back and kicking him in the butt. I felt guilty and ashamed of myself later.”
  • “Again yesterday the gang teased Fred all morning.  In gym class I told them to leave him alone and they teased me too the rest of the day.  They said I must be Gay too. I felt a little scared and embarrassed  and belittled.  This morning I felt good about my decision, no guilt.”
  • Comparative:  I’d rather feel scared, embarrassed and belittled than guilty and ashamed of myself. 
  • Acting on positivity (Leadership): “ I think I’ll invite Fred to my and Jack’s table for chemistry” ” I think I’ll blog about bullying”;”I think I’ll start an anti bully group. “
Every person starting in their childhood should understand:
  • My body is my own.  I don’t have to be socially polite about how I want to be  touched.  I do not have to explain it or validate how I feel.   Many very important boundaries are under attack starting as young as 9 months old.   We don't know the harm we are doing particularly to women.  Have you ever told a child in your life to hug a relative or friend?  Your request is met by a resounding "No! I don't want to!"  Do you order them or cajole them into hugging anyway?  You are training up a victim.  The message you are inadvertently saying, "you are not in control of your body; someone else is."
  • Being wrong does not mean I am bad, immoral, stupid or inferior.
  • I am responsible for what I think  how I act and respond.  
  • Other people are responsible for  what they think, how they act and respond.

Disciplined self-talk and healthy affirmation and visualization are skills.  Many people repeat bad messages that lead to poor self esteem, many times from caregivers.  “You’re such a loser, what’s wrong with you? I knew you’d get it wrong”-get internalized; “I’m such a loser, what’s wrong with me, I knew I’d get it wrong.”
Disciplined self talk
  • I’m a winner, I noticed how beautiful it was today, I listened to my heart, I stuck up for Fred last week. 
  • Who doesn’t get things wrong, I mean really?  That just means I have one less obstacle on the way to a solution.
So there are lots of other skills you read about.  To me though if these things above are working in the right environment ideally kids will pick healthy environments and friends or at least know they’ve made not so great decisions.I’m remiss in not proffering a discussion on what would be cultivating an environment to build these skills.  Oh well.

No comments: