Powerful Communication Activities for Teens

teen girl with buns in hair and smiling with arms in powerful pose from powerful communication activities for teens

This blog post is part of a series that provides lesson plans and communication activities for teaching teens communication skills. This post shares resources to teach teens how perceptions and emotions influence communication.

Background

Conflict management and communication skills are something that I have been passionate about teaching for over two decades. I have experience developing curriculums and lesson plans for all age groups, from high school students to post-secondary students and teachers. In addition, I was a mediator for fourteen years and helped countless people resolve their differences.

Communication activities for teens must include lessons about how perception and emotion influence communication. Developing a working knowledge and important skills about these two concepts through communication activities helps young people to become better communicators.

Perception and Emotion Influence Communication

When it comes to interpersonal communication and relationships, our perceptions and emotions can have a significant impact. How we see ourselves and the world around us can lead to different communication styles, which can affect the types of relationships, we form. A good example is if we perceive ourselves as shy or introverted, we may communicate differently than if we see ourselves as outgoing or extroverted. Similarly, if we’re feeling happy or excited about something, our communications will likely reflect feelings of happiness and excitement. On the other hand, emotions like anxiety or anger can also color our interactions with others. Communication activities including these, and more examples, are helpful for teens to grasp the concepts of how perceptions and emotions influence communication and relationships.

Emotions and Relationships

Emotions help us predict the stability of our interpersonal relationships over time. When it comes to interpersonal communication and relationships, emotions can play a vital role in how they develop and progress. Our feelings also shape how we interact with others; they can intensify our reactions to events, color our perceptions of interactions, and directly impact our choices about who to connect with. It’s essential to recognize the role that emotions play in our relationships so we can identify how they’re affecting us and then make adjustments to improve the quality of our interactions.

This awareness can also help us identify problems in our interpersonal relationships, such as shortcomings and difficult personalities. Communication activities designed to help high school students unpack problems and manage different personalities go a long way as they apply the skills learned throughout their lives.

Social Psychology

In the field of social psychology, there have been decades of research on the topic of emotions and their impact. Here are some examples:

  • Emotions like anger and shame are contagious, helping to shape how we think about specific situations and how we perceive others.
  • Happiness can spread quickly through a group with just one person expressing feeling happy.
  • Sadness or depression can spread as quickly as happiness if expressed.

Perception and emotion strongly influence how we communicate with others and how our interpersonal relationships play out. In addition, how we perceive ourselves and the world around us leads to different communication styles, which can affect the types of relationships we form. In short, how we feel and think our friends feel can help us predict how relationships will develop.

For example, when feeling a sense of urgency or irritability, we are more likely to become frustrated by other people’s behavior and choose to withdraw from those people. Because of this, it’s critical to consciously understand our emotional state, especially considering how we will approach relationships with others.

What is communication style?

How we perceive ourselves and the world around us can lead to different communication styles, which can affect the types of relationships, we form. Communication and relationship styles are often interchangeable, although they are not the same. They are both interrelated, however, because how we communicate with others is based on how we think about our relationships.

Communication style is how we prefer to communicate with others in our social connections. This includes two main components: how we communicate (the form of communication) and our level of formality or informality (the function).

This blog post shares a lesson plan and communication activities for how to teach teenage students important communication skills like communication styles:

Teens and Digital Technology

In today’s world, it is not uncommon for youth in the age group 14-18 to use smartphones and other technologies daily. Moreover, evidence suggests a relationship between digital technology use and psychological and emotional outcomes.

A growing body of evidence suggests too much time spent on digital technology can have negative psychological and emotional consequences for teenagers. A recent study found that 14-18-year-olds who excessively use digital devices are more likely to experience adverse outcomes than those who don’t. The study found that girls are more likely to experience adverse effects than boys. (Limone and Toto, 2022)

According to current research, adolescents’ well-being and life satisfaction are primarily influenced by their peers (Hardell, 2018). It has been reported that during adolescence, there are universal fluctuations in self-esteem and life satisfaction levels, which sometimes dip to an all-time low.

The researchers found that adolescents more invested in technology and social media usage had lower self-esteem. They concluded that young people’s reliance on technology and social media is a significant negative predictor of self-esteem.

Communication Activities for Teens

For face-to-face interactions and the digital world using electronic devices, good communication skills are essential social skills for teenagers to manage their relationships effectively, express themselves clearly, resolve conflict constructively, and collaborate with others. Conversely, poor communication skills can lead to problems in all areas of a teen’s life, including self-esteem. Teaching teens how to become better communicators and effective communicators in high school through role play and real world examples with communication activities prepares them for life outside school.

Teaching vital communication skills to teens is essential in providing them with a well-rounded education in high school. Helping young people practice soft skills and demonstrating effective communication during communication activities is not only about sharing information but also about expressing thoughts and feelings in a healthy relationship. When young people learn to communicate their thoughts and feelings effectively, they are more confident in their ability to solve problems, they maintain positive mental health, and develop their style of communication and skill of self-expression for future success.

Here is a list of subjects for different ways to teach teens effective and healthy communication skills using communication activities:

  • body language
  • how to be a good listener
  • conversation skills
  • open-ended questions
  • role play
  • nonverbal communication
  • assertive communication worksheet
  • small talk
  • art of conversation
  • power of verbal communication
  • non-verbal cues

Teaching Teens About Perceptions

How we perceive the world around us significantly affects how we understand and react to different situations. Our perceptions are often based on our individual experiences, beliefs, and biases, which can cause us to see things differently than they are. Learning to notice and question our perceptions is a valuable skill for teens to develop.

As teens grow and learn, they need to understand how different people can perceive the same situation differently. This can be difficult for some teens to grasp, but once they do, it can help them immensely in their everyday lives. By learning about perceptions with communication activities, teens can start to see things from other people’s points of view and get a clearer picture of what is happening around them.

It is crucial for teenagers to understand perceptions, and the basic framework for perception checking, as this can help them to see different viewpoints and get a more accurate idea of a situation. It is also essential for teachers to be aware of their perceptions, as these can either positively or negatively affect their expectations of students, which in turn can impact students’ performance in the classroom.

Teaching Teens About Emotions

As a teenager, it is vital to learn how to understand emotions and the emotions of others. By doing this, teens will be better able to manage their reactions to strong emotions. Teachers help young people identify and cope with their emotions by teaching them how to identify their feelings. Young people better understand and manage their emotions when they recognize them and know what to name them. For example, as children, we are taught about three emotions. These three emotions are happy, sad, and angry (mad). Developing vocabulary around the various emotions is helpful for students to articulate what they are feeling.

This handout provides numerous vocabulary options for describing emotions:

Emotion understanding is a crucial life skill. Those who can read and react to emotions in themselves and others are more likely to succeed. Understanding and empathizing with other people is a valuable skill for teenagers (and everyone else). Helping young people identify and label emotions is an important first step in teaching them effective communication skills.

Lesson Plan (Communication Activities)

In this lesson, communication activities explore the relationship between emotions and interpersonal communication and how students can use it to understand themselves and the people around them better. The techniques provided in the communication activities help students improve their interpersonal relationships and communicate more effectively with the people around them.

Teaching Strategy

There are many different ways that teachers can use the lesson content and communication activities provided here to teach effective communication skills to teenagers. One way, for example, would be to create discussions about each topic area to help students develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of perception and how it influences communication in their lives. Another way would be to use the activities provided to lead students in role-playing exercises to understand better how different perceptions can lead to misunderstandings. In addition, by engaging in these discussions, students will better understand themselves and how they communicate with others.

Bridge-In

This video discusses emotions. In addition, this video is used to stimulate small group discussions about how emotions influence communication.

Discussion Activity

Teachers will expand on the thought-provoking questions from this video. First, however, here are two examples of questions to stimulate discussions amongst students:

  • First, how do emotions influence our perceptions about a situation?
  • How do emotions influence how we communicate with others?

Learning Outcomes

In this lesson, students learn how perception and emotions impact interpersonal communication and relationships. The communication activities and discussion in this lesson are designed to assist students in examining their characteristics as communicators and the critical elements of how they express emotions.

Students will examine how they communicate in situations where emotions may have a powerful influence, as well as describe how their perceptions of themselves and others have developed.

Upon successful completion of this lesson, students will:

  1. Describe perception.
  2. Describe the psychological process of perception.
  3. List the physiological influences of perception.
  4. Describe emotional intelligence.

Perception

Perception is our way of interpreting the world around us. It allows us to take in our surroundings and make decisions based on what we see, hear, and feel. The perceptual process helps us understand the essential things for our survival.

The ability to interpret and make sense of the sensory information we take from the world around us allows us to perceive our surroundings. This process starts with recognizing environmental stimuli, which can come from sight, sound, smell, touch, or taste. We then respond to these stimuli through actions that help us interact with and understand our environment.

Our perception of others and the perspectives we take of the events, situations, and circumstances we experience in our lives can impact how we act and react to certain situations. Perception is our response to the ideas, data, and information surrounding us. Perception is a reaction to what we know, what we think, and what we are willing to learn.

The Perception Process

Selection, organization, and interpretation are the three main elements of the psychological process we naturally go through as we exercise our ability to perceive. Perception is “the process whereby we assign meaning to the world around us.” Our perception of ourselves, the world around us, and how we relate to the world around us influence our interactions with others.

Selection

The perception process begins with selection when you focus on certain sights, sounds, tastes, touches, or smells in your environment. This helps you to notice things that are important or interesting to you.

Organization

The next step in the perception process is organizing the information we select. Organizing information that we perceive is crucial to our understanding of the world. We sort and categorize data based on innate and learned cognitive patterns to make sense of everything around us. Proximity, similarity, and difference are three ways we can sort information into meaningful patterns.

Interpretation

Interpretation is a vital part of the perception process, whereby we assign meaning to our experiences using mental structures known as schemata. Schemata can be considered databases of stored, related information that we use to interpret new experiences. When we encounter something new, we look to our schemas to see how we should make sense of it. By understanding how interpretation works, we can gain greater insight into how we perceive the world around us. For example, a student is running to class. One student thinks they are running because they are late. Another student feels they are running because they are athletic and enjoy running.

Perceptions, Values, and Beliefs

Our perceptions are based on our experiences, values, and beliefs. Through our interactions with the world around us, we learn how to classify and interpret the information we receive from our sense organs. We then use that information to make decisions and choices about how we will engage ourselves in the world around us. These decisions and choices are influenced by what we perceive to be accurate and our values and beliefs.

Perceptions and External Factors

External factors influence our perceptions. Physiological influences, cultural differences, social roles, self-concept, and shared narratives are vital in how we perceive ourselves, our relationships, and the world around us. Our emotions also influence perceptions.

Some self-perception elements are inherent to us, while others are learned and involve our interpretation of what we have observed, heard, and felt. For example, you may be shy with people you don’t know well. You can’t help being shy in these situations; it’s a part of who you are. However, you may think being shy means you’re unapproachable or not fun.

Communication Activities

Teachers can use the following four communication activities as an entire lesson or integrate each communication activity into different lessons.

Activity 1: Shifting Perspectives (Pillow Method)

Perception contributes to evaluating situations and relationships, including how we see ourselves in our environment. Our perceptions are not always accurate but are what we perceive to be the truth. It is crucial to understand how we perceive and then consider the possible impact on our behavior and the behavior of others.

Directions

  1. Select one disagreement or another issue that is now affecting an interpersonal relationship.
  2. Record enough background information for an outsider to understand the issue. Who is involved? How long has the disagreement been going on? What are the fundamental issues involved?
  3. Describe the issue from each of the four positions listed below.
  4. Record your conclusions at the end of this exercise.

Background Information: Describe the situation.

Position 1: Explain how you are right, and the other person is wrong.

Position 2: Explain how the other person’s position is correct or understandable.

Position 3: Show that there are both correct (or understandable) and mistaken (or unreasonable) parts of both positions.

Position 4: Describe at least two ways the elements developed in positions 1-3 might affect your relationship. Describe at least one way the issue might be seen as less important than it was initially, and describe at least one way the problem might be seen as more important than it was initially.

Conclusion: Explain how there is some truth in each of the preceding positions. Also, explain how viewing the issue from each initial position has changed your perception of the problem and how it may change your behavior in the future. Finally, explain how this issue and your understanding of it affect your relationship.

Activity 2: Perception Checking Practice

Perception checking is a simple but powerful tool for effective communication. This approach makes listeners feel more comfortable, which makes it more likely that they will share information with you. In addition, perception checking helps to identify missed or new opportunities and explore different possibilities that we may not have considered.

Elements of Perception Checking

  1. Description – describe the behavior you noticed.
  2. Interpretation – provide two possible interpretations of the behavior.
  3. Clarification – request clarification from the person about the behavior and your interpretations.

Directions

Students work in pairs to practice perception checking in the situations described below. Students use the elements of perception checking during their practice.

Perception-Checking Situation

  1. During last week’s exam, you thought you saw your friend Jim sitting next to you in class, looking at your paper.
  2. Ever since the school year began, members of your family have asked how you are doing several times each month. They have just asked again.
  3. Your friend Kwok was driving you home from a party last night when he began to weave the car between lanes on the highway. You were uncomfortable but didn’t say anything then. Now it is the following day, and Kwok shows up to take you to a class. You have decided to bring up the incident.
  4. Every time you’ve left your house recently, your brother has run after you, asking for a ride somewhere. Your brother has a car, but you haven’t seen it lately. You are in a hurry now, and your brother has just requested another ride.
  5. You return home at night to find your sister, Sarah, reading on the couch. When you enter the room and greet Sarah, she grunts, turns her face away from you and keeps reading.
  6. Last week your teacher, Mr. Duncan, returned your exam with a low grade and commented, “This kind of work paints a bleak picture for the future.” You have approached him to discuss the remark.
  7. In one of your text conversations, you ask your favorite cousin, Mike, about the state of his up-and-down romantic life. He sighs and says, “Oh, it’s OK, I guess.”
  8. Your girlfriend or boyfriend announces that they plan to spend Friday night with friends from work. You usually spend Friday nights together.
  9. Last week your teacher, Ms. Jones, gave you a big assignment. Since then, she has asked you three times whether you’re having any trouble with it.
  10. One of your classmates sits by you every day in class and runs after you to walk to each class. Now he has started messaging you every evening. He now suggests that you do some things on the weekend together.

Activity 3: Stating Emotions Effectively

In the context of relationships and interpersonal communication, it’s essential to be aware of how emotions can affect our communication with others. Awareness of our feelings and managing them allows us to make better decisions, communicate more effectively, and resolve conflicts or problems.

Emotions play a large part in how successful or unsuccessful we are. They can help us make decisions that will lead us towards success and happiness or lead us towards failure and depression.

Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence is one of the keys to a successful life. If you know that others are reacting to you based on their emotions, you won’t be as surprised by their reactions, and you’ll know better how to respond to them.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) by a psychologist, Daniel Goleman (1997), who defined it as

“A form of intelligence relating to the emotional side of life, such as the ability to recognize and manage one’s own and other’s emotions, to motivate oneself and restrain impulses, and to handle interpersonal relationships effectively.”

Emotional intelligence has four parts:

  • self-awareness
  • managing your emotions
  • empathy
  • greater effectiveness in a relationship

Directions

Identify what’s ineffective or unclear about each of the feeling statements. Rewrite the feeling statements, making them more effective. Use the following guidelines for sharing feelings:

  • Recognize feelings.
  • Describe feelings (concise, not discounted, not coded, focused on specifics)
  • Share multiple feelings.
  • Differentiate between feeling, talking, and acting.
  • Accept responsibility for your feeling.s
  • Consider when and where to express.
  • Say each message aloud to a partner. Then, say each message aloud with a different facial expression. How does this change the message?

Feeling Statements

  1. You make me so mad.
  2. I can’t believe you act like that – I don’t want to see you anymore.
  3. I don’t care if you are rushed. We have to settle this now.
  4. I was a little miffed when you didn’t show up.
  5. You’re constantly criticizing me.
  6. Sure would be nice if people expressed appreciation.
  7. You jerk – you forgot to put gas in the car.
  8. It’s about time you paid up.
  9. You’re the best! Thanks for everything.
  10. I feel like an idiot. 
  11. I guess I’m a little attracted to him.
  12. She is amazing.

Activity 4: Expressing Emotion 

Directions

Discuss each of the questions below in small groups. Prepare written answers for your teacher, or be prepared to contribute to a large group discussion, comparing your experiences with those of others in your class.

  1. How successful are you at recognizing the emotions of messages from others communicated through digital technology, such as social media, instant messaging, and text messages? Compare this success with that of others in your group.
  2. Mediated contexts may make emotional expression more difficult (lack of touch or facial expression to communicate your happiness). On the other hand, mediated contexts may make emotional expression easier (sending a text you won’t be able to make it to work or class, for example). Discuss which mediated contexts are most suited to the expression of emotion. Give examples from your own life.
  3. In written communication, some stylistic devices (underlining, exclamation marks, emoticons such as the smiley, winking, or sad face emojis) indicate emotion. Evaluate the effectiveness of these substitutions for the vocal and facial expressions of emotion.

Summary

This lesson explained how perception and emotions influence interpersonal communication and relationships.

The next lesson will examine how language and listening affect communication.

References

Adler, R. B., Rolls, J. A., & Proctor, R. F. (2020). LOOK : looking out, looking in. Nelson Education.

Hardell, L. (2017). Effects of Mobile Phones on Children’s and Adolescents’ Health: A Commentary. Child Development89(1), 137–140. https://doi.org/10.1111/cdev.12831

Limone, P., & Toto, G. A. (2022). Psychological and Emotional Effects of Digital Technology on Digitods (14–18 Years): A Systematic Review. Frontiers in Psychology13https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2022.938965

RTL Perception and Perception Checking Canvas – RTL: PERCEPTION & PERCEPTION CHECKING. (n.d.). StuDocu. Retrieved August 16, 2022, from https://www.studocu.com/en-us/document/riverside-city-college/interpersonal-communications/rtl-perception-and-perception-checking-canvas/4594356

TACT (Teens and Conflict Together): A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Youth to Engage in Creative Problem Solving: Petryshyn, MA., Chartered Mediator, Suzanne: 9781451516593: Books – Amazon.ca. (2022). Amazon.ca.

‌ Vuorre, M., Orben, A., & Przybylski, A. K. (2021). There Is No Evidence That Associations Between Adolescents’ Digital Technology Engagement and Mental Health Problems Have Increased. Clinical Psychological Science, 216770262199454. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167702621994549

TACT (Teens and Conflict Together)

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