Speak Up… And Lend an Ear

Blog · Feb 10, 2015

Effective communication skills are key to resilient living.  Communication is the means by which we interact with the world, and how we communicate plays a large role in determining the outcomes of our actions and relationships.  Children who communicate effectively are better able to make responsible decisions, stay true to their goals, and develop healthy relationships, because they can advocate their needs, seek help when necessary, and reject unhealthy pressures and influences.

Dr. Carol Seefeldt writes in Scholastic that with effective communication skills “children can listen and learn from others, discuss ideas, and gain ever more knowledge of the world in which they live.” First, children must learn to differentiate healthy and unhealthy communication styles in order to adopt an effective communication style of their own.

Our body language speaks to others before we even speak.  For example, an interviewee who enters an interview with slumped shoulders and averted eyes will come across too passive. However, an interviewee who enters the interview with good posture and direct eye contact will come across assertive. The interviewer will take this into consideration and formulate an impression before the interviewee has a chance to answer questions. By discerning between these two communication styles, children learn that assertive behavior is more direct and honest, thereby portraying a confidence and readiness to perform.

Listening skills are also essential to effective communication. Children learn how to listen by mirroring those who listen to them, but an understanding of the role of non-verbal cues conveys a message to children as well. Dr. Seefeldt writes that educating children by “fostering the conventions of communication, helping children learn to look, to take turns, and to negotiate verbal conflicts” develops an understanding of what it means to empathize with others.  Teaching children to identify and adopt healthy listening skills, such as focusing on what the speaker is saying, smiling and nodding, and asking clarifying questions prevents miscommunication and facilitates stronger relationships.

The above skills lead to the capacity to develop healthy relationships. As Dr. Seefeldt writes, “Children who look at the child they are talking with, who understand turn taking when communicating, and who know how to solve verbal conflicts are those who make and keep friends easily.” Effective communication helps children navigate challenging situations and peacefully resolve conflict. As a result, they are more likely to share their ideas and feelings with others, which promote enhanced cooperation and healthy bonding.

Children who are ready to communicate effectively present themselves confidently in both manner and speech. They are emboldened to make responsible decisions that will keep them on track to reaching their goals, making friends along the way.

Social Emotional Learning, Substance Abuse Prevention, Violence Prevention

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