Communication tips for teens with sickle cell disease

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Find tips to prepare for an important conversation and deliver your message clearly and effectively.

Key points

  • Preparing your message ahead of time will help you share the thoughts that you want.
  • To prepare your message, think about which points are most important to get across to the person you are talking to and practise saying these out loud.
  • Plan a time to talk when no other important topics will be discussed and choose a location with few distractions, if possible.
  • For best results, deliver your message with positive body language and "I" statements, and take time to collect your thoughts and be a good listener.

Prepare your message

If you have something important to communicate, it’s worth taking time to consider what you want to say and why you want to say it.

Use the following steps to help you prepare your message.

1. Set a goal

What do you want to achieve? For instance, what do you want the other person to know or do because of what you say? Knowing your goal will help you focus on the points that you feel are most important to get across to the person you are talking to.

2. Practise

You might want to write out a script or just the main points or key words that you want to communicate. Then you can practise saying them out loud. You might do this alone, in front of a mirror or with someone you trust who will give you helpful feedback.

3. Choose the right time

Plan ahead and choose a time when no other important topics will be discussed and a location with few distractions. This might be hard at a clinic appointment or at school, but telling others right away what you want to discuss will at least help them know what to expect.

Deliver your message clearly

Two Copey characters, which are blue and bean-shaped, sit side by side in chairs at a table

Now that you have decided what you want to say and when, it’s time to think about how you want to say it.

You can deliver your message effectively by:

Use positive body language

Your body language plays a large role when you communicate with others. The way you stand, your eye contact and your facial expression all help the person you are communicating with figure out the meaning of your message.

Try your best to face towards the person you’re speaking to, lean in and look them in the eyes. Don’t do things like roll your eyes, check your phone or look at the clock, even if the conversation isn’t going the way you’d like it to.

Use "I" statements

Teen sitting in a chair across from two adults and smiling at them

Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements. The only thing you know for sure is how you feel or what you’re thinking. Using “I” statements helps you identify and stand by your feelings and make sure that the other person does not become defensive.

For example, it's better to say something like, “I felt angry when I was told that I needed to be admitted to the hospital for my pain crisis” than “You made me so angry when you told me that I needed to be admitted to the hospital for my pain crisis.”

Be specific

You might have heard some advice in the past to say what you mean and mean what you say. This is great advice! Be clear about what you want when you communicate and state your point as directly as you can.

For example, if you want to be more involved in making decisions, try saying, “I want to be asked for my opinion when you need to make a decision about me.”

Collect your thoughts

Two teens sitting across from each other at a small table with notebooks open in front of them

Pausing during a conversation is a good idea so that you have time to think about what you want to say before you respond. Sometimes when we are worried or feel emotional during a conversation, we may think that there has been a long silence when really only a few seconds have passed.

To practise taking a pause in the conversation the next time you have a casual conversation with a parent or friend, count to five in your head and think about your response before you answer.

This practice will let you find out how long five seconds really is. It will also help you feel more comfortable with pausing when you need time to think during a more serious conversation in the future.

Try to stay calm

It’s OK to feel a wide range of emotions, but if your emotions become too strong, it can be hard to think and speak clearly. If you have something important to say, there might be a lot of emotions tied up in your reasons for communicating. Using strategies like pausing can help you keep calm and communicate your message more effectively.

During your conversation: If you feel yourself getting emotional or upset, pause and take a few deep breaths. Focus on the movement of your breath, in and out. Tell the person you’re speaking with that you need a moment to collect your thoughts, and then start again.

Remember too that the deep breathing and relaxation strategies from the Relaxation module can come in handy here.

Be a good listener

Teens sitting across from each other in chairs. One teen smiles at the other and holds a binder on her lap

Most times, the best way to communicate is to be a good listener first! If you have already communicated your main message, let the other person finish responding before you jump in again. Even though what you need to say in response might feel very important to you, waiting until they are done speaking will show that you value what they say.

And while the other person finishes their point, make sure you are truly listening to them! Don’t spend your time preparing your response to their comments. Carefully consider what they are saying and then decide what to say. When other people know that you are trying hard to listen to and understand them, they may be much more likely to want to hear what you have to say.

A good tip is to repeat what the person has said to you. This way, the person knows that you have been listening and has a chance to correct any of their message. It also gives you some more time to think of your response if you don’t feel comfortable collecting your thoughts in silence for a few seconds.

Reflect on your message

After your conversation, reflect on how it went. Use the questions below as a guide.

  • Did you achieve your goal?
  • What went well?
  • What could have gone better?
  • What would you do differently in the future?

Don’t forget to reward yourself with something you enjoy for trying out these communication skills! Think about how you could reward yourself.

Last updated: January 4th 2024