A few weeks ago, I sat down next to an eighth grade boy. Wanting to engage him in conversation, I asked, “How's school?”
I got a typical junior high boy answer: “Good.”
So I asked him a follow-up question. “What's been good about it?”
To which he shrugged and said, “I don't know.”
Rather than get frustrated, I switched tactics. “What's been the worst part of school so far?”
Suddenly, this boy got animated. He proceeded to describe a class he hated and the reasons behind his distaste for it.
As a veteran youth worker, I like to think that I know how to engage youth in conversation – even the silent ones. And to some extent, I do.
Yet, the reality is that a good conversation with a student – especially junior high boys – usually only happens after a great deal of persistence.
I persist because I know that eventually, I can get someone talking.
But what about new adult leaders? Will they persist through the awkwardness of a conversation in order to get to the good stuff?
Too often, adult leaders have only the first half of my conversation with a student. They ask several questions that elicit one-word responses or even worse, a shoulder shrug. Eventually, they get frustrated and find a way to exit the conversation, often concluding that a teen has no interest in talking to them.
Nothing could be further from the truth.