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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Larson

3 Ways to Help Your Kids Become Better Speakers

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

“Communication is not about saying what we think. Communication is about ensuring others hear what we mean.” - Simon Sinek

This week we’re continuing our review of the soft skills our kids need for our future changing world. As we highlighted last week, researchers say these skills are important for kids to learn regardless of what path they choose after high school.

Our focus this week is on Communication.

Knowing how to share your ideas through speaking, writing, reading and listening is a key aspect of our daily lives. It applies to everyone whether you are a toddler learning how to express your needs, a teenager conversing with friends or perhaps an employee pitching a product.

Google “communication skills” and you’ll discover an endless stream of articles regarding the skills you need to succeed in the workplace and tips to communicate more effectively.

But what aspect of communication is most important to employers?

A recent survey listed “good speaking skills” as the top quality organizations are looking for in their employees. And yet, most schools don’t teach oral (or verbal) communication.

So what can we do to help develop this important skill in our kids?

The Impact of Technology on Oral Communication

Oral communication is communicating with spoken words. It’s a verbal form of communication where you share your thoughts, ideas and information. And we can’t ignore the impact technology has had on the amount of oral communication we have on a daily basis.

1876 Telephone Invented

Before the Internet era consumed us, oral communication was primarily limited to in-person gatherings. The invention of the telephone in 1876 was the first time we were able to have conversations with individuals in different locations.

1998 You’ve Got Mail

Email was first used in academia to share files and messages in the 60s. But ultimately it was the popularity of services like Hotmail and AOL that led to a flurry of consumer email programs. It also shifted our focus to the written word.

2006 Facebook Launched to General Public

Social networking got its start long before Facebook as tech savvy users explored various forms of digital communication through email, bulletin board messaging and real-time chatting. The launch of Facebook to the general public in 2006 thrust social networking into the mainstream and the site now boasts more than 1.3 billion active users.

2020 You’re on Mute

With the entire world in lockdown, video conferencing companies experienced skyrocketing growth as we moved work meetings, learning and social gatherings online. Companies like Zoom have seen unprecedented growth over the past two years, and we were once again having conversations with our friends and colleagues, albeit a bit challenging at times as we learned how to navigate the various software programs.

What’s Next?

The rise of the Internet, email and social media sites like Facebook over the last twenty five years have shifted our focus away from oral communication. These sites are all about immediate sharing via messages, images and video clips.

Should we be concerned? If our children are spending the bulk of their day casually conversing through social networking sites, how will they develop the much desired oral communication skills sought by employers?

3 Ways to Help Your Kids Become Better Speakers

Schools are often criticized for their lack of attention to oral communication. Some claim this is because it's not part of required state testing. Others believe the focus is too academic and doesn’t give students the skills they need for the real world.

Oral communication requires more than simply presenting your ideas to a group of people. Individuals with strong verbal skills know how to listen, understand non-verbal cues and receive feedback. As a result, they are more successful in their interviews, negotiations, presentations, and projects that require team collaboration.

Here’s three ways you can help your kids develop better oral communication skills:

1 - Active Listening

How often do you focus on trying to understand the message someone is sharing with you, beyond just hearing the words they say? Active listening is about focusing on the individual you are having a conversation with. This can be done through eye contact, your body language, asking questions and providing feedback.

2 - Develop Empathy

Learning how to empathize with others, to understand another person’s perspective, is an important part of communication because it helps nurture relationships and ensure a more appropriate response in conversations. Cultivating empathy in our kids can be as simple as letting them experience how we empathize with them. You can also practice empathy by making caring for others a priority or having family discussions about events happening in your local community or across the globe.

3 - Practice Storytelling

Stories are part of our everyday lives. In the workplace, business leaders use storytelling to educate, inform, motivate and inspire their employees. Practice storytelling with your children by telling bedtime stories, sharing the history of a family tradition or trying one of these storytelling games.

Join the Discussion

Long gone are the days of telephones connected to a landline, busy signals and having to memorize all your friends’ phone numbers. Technology is quickly changing the dynamics of how we communicate with others and knowing how to communicate verbally with others is necessary to succeeding in a more diverse and distributed workforce.

But finding ways to balance our kids' desire to share information instantly and knowing how to have meaningful conversations with colleagues is an important skill for their future. And from preschool to high school, it’s never too early to start developing communication skills in our children.

Have a favorite storytelling game? We’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.

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