Teen Timer Talks

14 Oct

I am all about teaching skills that help avoid conflict, if possible, or address it if not.

A colleague, Bob Quilitch, and I were walking around Virginia Lake one day  – it was our way of catching up with each other and getting some fresh air at the same time. Anyway, Bob is a Psychologist and works with teenage girls at the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project, a terrific program here in Reno. Their mission is to assist homeless older teens to become independent, self sufficient community contributors.

Right now, their program is focusing on 6-8 young women who live under one roof – they have transitional housing in a home that has 5 bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. Lots of great things happen there, like a Thanksgiving feast, but so does conflict.  Just think about it … that many females and so few bathrooms.

timer1Anyway, Dr. Bob developed something that he calls ‘ Timer Talks’ – it’s a way for a neutral third party to assist two people in conflict .. when they can’t figure it out on their own. The reason I like it is it slows the conversation down, allowing for listening and some venting … but with limits.

Here’s how it works:

  • Parties meet at a time and place convenient for all involved and set aside 30 to 60 minutes. Interruptions are avoided.
  • A timer is used to give each person equal talking time. Five minute turns usually is a good starting point.
  • Flipping a coin decides who the first Speaker is.
  • The Speaker starts by telling his/her side of the conflict to the Listener.  The Listener is asked to be quiet, respectful and keep a ‘quiet’ face. They may take notes.
  • A Speaker is not obligated to use all of his/her time. They are free to talk briefly and say, “I’m through.”
  • After the Speaker finishes, the Neutral Third Party asks the Listener to give a summary (Recap), the essence of what was said.
  • The Third Party then asks the Speaker “Does that capture what you said?” The Speaker may say “Yes” or “No” and correct the Listener.
  • The Talk may not proceed until the Recap is completed to the Speaker’s satisfaction. This is done each time a Speaker finishes talking.
  • Once begun, the talk is not over until all agree that it is or the deadline is reached.
  • If the talk produces no resolution, the Third Party Neutral might ask each Speaker/Listener to briefly state the problem, and then create a description of the problem to which they can both agree, asking them to suggest several possible solutions and pick one to try.
  • Or, it might be ended for today and scheduled to continue at a later time.

In some ways, this approach is like a mini-mediation. With Dr. Bob’s background as a psychologist, he adds the additional dimension of a ‘coach’ … supporting and mentoring the girls to learn new ways of communicating with each other.

Thanks, Dr. Bob for this idea … I can visualize it working for a couple of teenagers. Or perhaps between a parent and a teen? Can you?



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