One of the most powerful tools any graduate should have ready for the workplace is the ability to communicate well. Our world today presents more and more people, though, showing self-absorption and thus cluelessness about others. A phone in hand or earbuds in ears tell others, “Leave me alone!” This self-induced isolation has led many to the inability to communicate clearly and effectively to others—spoken or written, face-to-face or through a device.
Proper communication skills aren’t learned overnight or without practice, though. These skills should be taught throughout life, and many opportunities must be given for children and adults to practice communicating well.
Though some classes may focus on certain elements of communication skills more, such as writing or speaking rules, all classes have a responsibility to include communication opportunities within the various fields of study. They aren’t just for an English or speech classroom. The ability—or inability—an adult has in speaking and writing will relate directly to the importance of those skills he was taught (or caught) earlier in life.
Are Communication Skills That Important?
God’s Word shows us clearly that right words are highly valued by our God. David often reminded himself of the importance of his words before his enemies and the importance of always controlling his speech. Solomon showed the differences between a wise man’s and a foolish man’s words. We also see many who struggled with the fear of speaking, such as Moses, yet God promised His help and guidance. “Who hath made man’s mouth? . . . I will be with thy mouth, and teach thee what thou shalt say” (Ex. 4:11-12). Words are important to God. Do we place the right emphasis on them in our own lives?
Research also shows the value of communication skills not only in presenting knowledge but also in learning it. The act of writing or speaking on a topic can help us make connections, firm our understanding and enhance our critical thinking. When a teacher feels he doesn’t have time to say all he wants, doesn’t feel qualified to judge a student’s writing, or doesn’t want to bother with the effort in evaluating subjective work, he often foregoes the writing and speaking activities from his plan and leaves it for someone else to accomplish. This can have a devastating effect, though, that can both undermine the importance of communication and cripple a student’s ability. The effort to incorporate communication activities in every realm is extremely important.
Making It Happen
Whether you are the teacher trying to incorporate communication skills into your class or the one who needs to learn them yourself, practices in communication can be easy to implement.
Whether planning lessons with colleagues, studying with a group of friends, or preparing for a church lesson, work with others on what needs to be learned and how communication can effectively be integrated into that study.
Think outside the box
Don’t feel constrained to the same format every time you write or speak. A little creativity can go a long way in helping students feel comfortable with the assignment or in remembering the information. A science class might not write an essay, necessarily, but an imaginative story having a character perform the science experiment and seeing the results may solidify that information long-term. Have a history student write a bill to present to Congress or a journal of an important figure in a major historical event.
Make it short
Summing up a large portion of information into about ten words can force someone to evaluate what the key information really is. This works at the end of a lesson for teachers evaluating what students know. Students can also evaluate what they know themselves using this method. Beyond school, someone leaving a church service or an important conversation can use this tactic to condense information into an easy-to-remember form.
Speak and remember
For many, especially auditory learners, saying information aloud makes a huge difference in long-term memory and overall understanding. If you can’t explain something in your own words, you don’t really understand it yet. So, have students explain a concept to a partner. Have them present information they learned to a class. Tell your friend what you gained from that lesson or sermon. All of these give practice in oral communication.
Reaping the Results
Practicing good communication helps us in so many ways—mental processing, structure, coherency and even confidence. Those who have practiced good communication skills will set themselves above the rest.
The greater goal, though, does not have to do with what others think of me but rather what others think of my God. Our words betray a great deal about us to others. Show others this importance and stress right communication practices in every area—school, work and home.