As parents, we want to do all we can to prepare our teens for high school, college and the workplace. Helping them develop their communication skills is a key part to helping them succeed in the future.
We are experiencing a unique time in history, no doubt about it. But it’s never a bad time to improve communication habits. Here are some top tips your teens can use to improve their skills.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Listen more, talk less.
People want to know that they are being heard, so really listen to what the other person is saying before you formulate your response. The person speaking to you should be the most important person in your life. Ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings and only have one conversation at a time. This means that if you are speaking to someone on the phone, do not respond to an email or send a text at the same time.
2. Know your audience.
How you talk depends on who you are talking to. It is okay to use informal language when you are communicating with a friend, but if you are emailing or texting your manager, teacher, tutor or boss, informal language such as “Hey” and “TTYL” has no place in your message. You cannot assume that the other person knows the casual language you use with friends. Keep the other person in mind when you are trying to get your message across.
3. Body language matters.
This is important for face-to-face meetings as well as video conferences. Open body language gives the impression that you are accessible. Keep your arms uncrossed and maintain eye contact so that the other person knows you are paying attention. For video conferences, do your best to look into the camera rather than the screen. It makes a big difference.
4. Check your messages before you hit send.
Spelling and grammar checks are not foolproof. Double check what you have written to make sure that your words are communicating your intended message. Be brief, but specific enough to convey your intended message. After crafting your message, walk away and come back to it a few minutes later to reread it. Before you hit send, ask yourself, “How would I react if this were sent to me?” If you are responding to an email, be sure to read the entire message before crafting a response.
5. Write things down.
Take notes just as you would if you were in a classroom. Don’t rely on your memory while you are talking to another person or when you are in a meeting. Send a follow-up email to make sure that you understand what was said during the conversation. It doesn’t have to be awkward—you can let the person you’re speaking with know that taking notes is a habit that helps you stay organized. This can be especially helpful when networking.
6. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone.
If you find that you have a lot to say, make a phone call instead of sending a message. Email or direct messages on social media are fine for some types of communication, but there are times when a two-way conversation is best as it allows for the natural ebb and flow.
7. Think before you speak.
Always pause before you speak and treat everyone you speak to with respect. Take a moment to formulate your words and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. Teaching yourself to reflect on your response before you speak will help you appear mature and thoughtful to your listener.
8. Maintain a positive attitude and smile.
When you smile and exude a positive attitude, people will respond to you in a positive way. This works even if you are speaking on the phone—smiling and focusing on conveying an upbeat demeanor will affect how you speak. This is a simple, often overlooked habit that can make a big impact on many of your conversations.