Communication is key; we use it to get the kids out the door in the morning, close that deal at work, shop at the grocery store, or enjoying a cup of coffee with a good friend, among many others. Effective communication is an important life skill that enables us to connect with those around us, helps us build respect and trust, allows us to resolve differences, and fosters collaboration for problem solving.
Effectively expressing our thoughts is important to our success and therefore important for youth to learn as they grow into adulthood. In fact, in the National Association of Colleges and Employers Job Outlook 2016 report, employers ranked “the ability to communicate with persons inside and outside the organization” as the number one quality needed when looking at potential employees. As parents, leaders, and mentors, we want to make sure we are helping youth develop effective communication skills throughout our interactions. Keep these pointers from Dr. Allen Mendler in mind as you work to teach youth the value of effective communication.
First, model good conversations for your children. Make a point to engage your child in conversation and ask open-ended questions. Make sure to rid yourself of distractions and model active listening during these conversations. Modeling your effective communication skills helps children learn how to conduct conversations themselves.
Next, help your child focus on non-verbal cues. Identifying those non-verbal habits that help show interest and attention are critical for learning effective communication skills. Strategies like S.L.A.N.T. (Sit up straight, listen, answer and ask questions, nod to show interest, track the speaker with eye contact) can help your child remember non-verbal ques.
Further, help your child develop active listening skills. Listening is often an overlooked but important skill to teach when focusing on communication. Encourage your child to rephrase comments to check for correct meaning and show others they are listening. Eye contact is key when teaching active listening, so make sure to encourage your child to make eye contact when listening in a conversation.
Next, challenge put-downs or hurtful comments. As children learn to express their feelings, they can sometimes be mean or hurtful. Challenge your child to phrase negative comments in ways that are not hurtful or mean. For example, instead of saying, “That’s a stupid idea!” encourage the phrase, “I disagree.” Teaching your child to express negative feelings in a respectful manner will help them as they resolve conflicts.
Further, teach your child the importance of articulation, enunciation, correct grammar, and taking turns. Polite and effective communication relies on your child’s ability to speak clearly and correctly, help your child learn not to rush communication, slur words, or mumble. Further, correct grammar is important, make sure to correct your child when they make a mistake, this will help them learn correct grammar. Lastly, teach them the importance of taking turns, interrupting is rude.
Finally, help your child develop effective communication skills by practicing with them. Practice makes perfect, so the more you can help your child learn the better they will become.
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