Three words every young person wants to hear

Brad M. Griffin | Mar 17, 2017

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself in conversations with young people that bump along awkwardly and end abruptly. As one of our ministry volunteers recently shared, “I am apparently terrible at getting more than one-word answers in conversation with most of the guys.” Can you relate?

Perhaps this is because good conversations tend to be elusive in a society that is relentlessly self-focused. We haven’t had good listening modeled well for us, and in turn we struggle to offer that gift to others. We don’t even know how to ask a follow-up question that generates something more than minimalist vocabulary.

Most of us who are parents also struggle with conversational momentum with our own adolescent kids. If you find yourself in the same “How was your day?” rut as the rest of us, let’s just go ahead and confess together that we are desperate for better language when we connect with our family after work and school.

"Tell me more"

Before Steve Argue was formally part of our team at FYI, he was a great dialogue partner. One of the phrases he has championed for years when it comes to conversations with young people is a simple three-word invitation:

Tell me more.

Memorize those words right now.

“How was your baseball game this weekend?”

“Good.”

“Cool.”

That’s as far as we usually get. But what might happen if instead we offered:

“Oh yeah? Tell me more!”

Of course, we might still get a three-word answer. But sometimes it opens enough of a crack to peer inside the elusive experience of the reserved teenager. And with emerging adults who may be jaded by how little adults actually seem to want to know about them, “Tell me more” can be a relational gamechanger (tweet that).

Once we asked Steve about the phrase “Tell me more” and why it’s a common prompt in their family to generate better conversations. He shared,

I think we need to remember as parents that the first question isn’t as important as the second or third question. A first question usually comes from our own agenda—we want information, clarity, or context. Second and third questions are responsive questions that emerge from the conversation. They show our kids how well we’re listening and really seeking to understand, rather than just interrogate.

I realized when our daughters went to college that I had to learn to talk with them differently. My job wasn’t to check up on them—Where were you last night? When did you get in? Did you finish your homework?—My questions had to become ones of discovery—What was the best part of your week? What class is inspiring you? What do you like or not like about your professors?

Maybe for us, “Tell me more” is more of a posture than a solo question!

Brilliant.

To help you remember these three key words in your upcoming conversations, our team designed a few smartphone wallpapers to dress your tech! Enter your email address to receive these in your inbox right away.

Brad M. Griffin

Brad M. Griffin is the Senior Director of Content for the Fuller Youth Institute, where he develops research-based training for youth workers and parents. A speaker, writer, and volunteer youth pastor, Brad is the coauthor of over a dozen books, including 3 Big Questions That Change Every Teenager, Faith in an Anxious World, Growing Young, several Sticky Faith books, Every Parent’s Guide to Navigating Our Digital World, and Can I Ask That? Brad and his family live in Southern California, where he serves as Pastor of Youth and Family Ministries at Mountainside Communion.


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