Love Language and Communication Styles: Understanding Your Teenager

I was about 15 years old when I first learned about the theory of the 5 love languages. If you're unfamiliar with the concept, the argument is that everyone has a tendency to show love in one of five ways: through quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving, physical touch or acts of service. The interesting thing, however, is that while we may SHOW love in one way, we might want to receive love differently. For me, at 15, I was really struggling with knowing how to accept any form of love or affection from my family, friends, or acquaintances. If you're new to me, this may seem like an odd statement. What kind of 15 year old struggles to connect and bond with people? But you should probably know that by the time I was 15, I'd already had ten brain surgeries, 24 surgeries in total, lost a friend to pneumonia, and had been abused twice. In the words of Pink Floyd: I was definitely building my impenetrable emotional wall - and NOTHING was going to get through.

It wasn't until I was 22, however, and studying for both my teaching qualification, but also my youth development certificate through the YMCA that I started learning about different teaching/learning styles, and different communication styles. It was only then that I really had my first "aha!" moment - especially when it comes to how powerfully effective music had been for me when it came to exploring both my love languages and also my communication styles.

You see, my main love language is definitely words of affirmation. So it only makes sense that I was drawn to listening to, and writing lyrics. Now, before I go any further, I don't want you to get it twisted - when I say "words of affirmation", I don't necessarily mean "airy fairy, loving words... but just words in general. Conversation. Self expression. Connection through words". Cool? Cool.

But when it comes to communication styles? There are arguably four types: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive. Passive communicators tend to “go with the flow,” preferring to avoid conflict and confrontation at all costs. Aggressive communicators often dominate conversations, ensuring their thoughts and opinions are heard. Similar to passive communicators, passive-aggressive communicators find it difficult to convey their true feelings directly or clearly articulate their point of view. Assertive communicators, on the other hand, express themselves confidently and actively listen to others.

So why am I writing this? What has this got to do with you and/or your teenager?

Well, dear reader, it has come to my attention that - for me - songwriting has been a phenomenal tool to help me express my love language of "words of affirmation". Songwriting has helped me identify, process, understand, and express my inner thoughts and feelings so that I can then communicate them effectively to those that I love and care for, BUT it has also given me a toolkit to move away from my years of passive communication styles [see my first TEDx Talk, where I talked a little bit about my drum teacher telling me I was too passive aggressive for percussion] to more assertive communication styles. In other words: the more I understood myself and my thoughts and feelings; the more I was able to express them healthily. And the more I was able to healthily express myself, the more I was able to feel seen, heard, and validated. And the more seen, heard and validated I become: the quicker my walls began to come down so I was finally able to start developing healthier relationships with my family, friends, and - eventually - my now-husband.

So how does this help you and your teenager? Let's talk about it:

Understanding love languages and communication styles can be a game changer for teenagers navigating the complexities of relationships.

For many teens, and I'm speaking from direct experience as well as from the 100's of teenagers I've worked with over the years; songwriting offers a unique and powerful avenue to explore these aspects of themselves.

Here’s how songwriting can help teenagers develop healthy communication habits and understand their love languages better:

Exploring Love Languages Through Songwriting

Teenagers often struggle to articulate how they prefer to give and receive love. Most of them aren't even aware that there are different ways to give and receive love. We're so often shaped by the values in which we were raised with, that we oftentimes find it difficult to even recognize that there might be another way. Simply put: we don't know what we don't know. By engaging in songwriting, they can delve into their own emotional experiences and start to identify patterns in their interactions with others. For example:

  • Quality Time: Teens who value quality time might write lyrics about shared moments, emphasizing the importance of presence and connection. cue Norah Jones's "Come Away with Me"

  • Words of Affirmation: Those who resonate with words of affirmation can use songwriting to express their need for verbal recognition and appreciation, reflecting on how such affirmations impact their self-esteem. They may also use songwriting as a tool to reflect on what they value in others - choosing to give words of affirmation as a subconscious attempt to try and articulate their own need for validation. Cue TikTok's Jade Nova's song "Affirm Me"

  • Gift Giving: Teens who show or crave love through gifts might write about the symbolism behind the gifts they give or receive, exploring the deeper meanings and emotions attached to these gestures. Contrastingly: they may attempt to rebuke gift giving through lyric-writing ahem cue "Gold Digger" from Kanye West

  • Physical Touch: Lyrics can explore the comfort and reassurance found in physical touch, highlighting its role in their sense of security and affection. cue Shania Twain's "That Don't Impress Me Much"

  • Acts of Service: Songwriting can help teens express how acts of kindness and service make them feel loved and valued, and how they reciprocate these feelings. cue the classic "Stand by Me" by Ben E King

Developing Communication Styles Through Songwriting

Songwriting also serves as a therapeutic tool to help teens transition from less effective communication styles to more assertive and healthy ones:

  • Passive to Assertive: Teens who tend to be passive can use songwriting to find their voice. By writing about their experiences and feelings, they learn to articulate their needs and desires more clearly.

  • Aggressive to Balanced: Those with aggressive tendencies can explore the consequences of their communication style through their lyrics, reflecting on how it affects their relationships and finding ways to express themselves without overpowering others.

  • Passive-Aggressive to Direct: Teens who communicate passive-aggressively can use songwriting to confront their emotions directly, turning indirect expressions of frustration into clear, honest communication.

  • Assertive Communication: Songwriting encourages teens to express themselves confidently and listen to the perspectives of others, fostering a balanced approach to communication that respects both their own needs and those of others.

Building Healthy Relationships

As teenagers become more adept at expressing themselves through songwriting, they start to build healthier relationships. Songwriting allows them to process their emotions and thoughts in a structured way, leading to greater self-awareness and emotional intelligence. This self-awareness translates into more effective communication with family, friends, and partners, as they learn to express their needs and listen to others.

For example, a teenager struggling to communicate with their parents might write a song that conveys their feelings of being misunderstood. Sharing this song can open up a dialogue, helping both the teen and their parents to see each other’s perspectives and work towards better mutual understanding.

I mean, I did just that when I was a teenager... multiple times. I even released some of these tracks last year on an acoustic album.

The Power of Reflection and Growth

Songwriting also offers a reflective practice that helps teenagers look back on their experiences and growth over time. By writing and revisiting their songs, they can see how their thoughts and feelings have evolved, reinforcing positive changes in their communication and relationships.

Practical Steps for Parents and Educators

Parents and educators can support teens in this process by encouraging them to:

  • Write Regularly: Set aside time for songwriting as a regular practice, allowing teens to explore their emotions and thoughts consistently.

  • Share and Discuss: Create safe spaces for teens to share their songs and discuss the themes and feelings behind them.

  • Seek Feedback: Encourage teens to seek feedback from trusted friends or mentors, helping them to refine their communication skills and build confidence.

Songwriting is more than just a creative outlet for teenagers; it’s a powerful tool for developing healthy communication habits and understanding love languages. By embracing this form of self-expression, teens can navigate the complexities of their emotional world, build stronger relationships, and grow into more confident, articulate individuals.

If you’re interested in helping your teenager harness the power of songwriting for personal growth, start by encouraging them to pick up a pen and let their heart guide the words, and if you ready to take things one step further, let's hop on a call to see if I can help. I've been coaching and mentoring teenagers for over five years now to help them express themselves safely, healthily and honestly through harnessing the power of songwriting.

I look forward to speaking with you about how this could be just the right next step for you and your teenager to understand, process and express their love language through the healthy communication tools of songwriting and music.

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