Talking to teenagers


There’s an art to talking to young teenagers. Once this variety of human beings reach high school, they start to look just like adults. Their minds are expanding at exponential rate, and are beginning to become who they will be for their rest of their lives. They are forming their opinions about the world, they’re gaining confidence in the way they communicate, and even in the way they stand, or walk. It’s not easy. God knows, it’s not easy. It’s the most difficult time in a person’s life. And I find talking to them fascinating. 

First of all, you cannot under any circumstances ask them a “yes” or “no” question. They will answer “yes” or “no”. But even for questions that aren’t “yes” or “no,” teenagers generally will answer you with the least amount of words possible. Teenagers are succinct. They are the Hemingways of the human race.

It’s admirable, really. Unlike adults, teenagers will answer your actual question. They won’t go on and on, saying things that sound eloquent but aren’t addressing what you asked, like adults do.

See, young teenagers haven’t learned bullshit yet. They might know how to lie — that’s something we are taught at a very early age — but the practice of answering a question that could be answered in a few words with entire paragraphs is something that we perfect in college. That’s where we learn how to write a ten-page paper regurgitating the reading the professor assigned and making it seem like you are saying something new.

Most high schoolers can’t do that yet. They actually have to think about what they are saying.

I’ve interviewed a number of young teenagers in the past few months. I admire them so much, even when I want to pull my hair out getting them to expand on their their thoughts so I’ll have a good quote for an article. It’s much more difficult to interview a young person, because they won’t just talk without a lot of prompts. Still, if you can get them to open up, they are capable of being profound.

Adults could learn a lot from young people. Think of how much better the world would be if everybody formed original thoughts, every time they spoke? If instead of quoting bullet points from their side of any given discourse, they actually took the time to think about what they were saying- only speaking what they really thought. It would probably be a slower world. But probably a more genuine one.