Parents often wonder what their child will be when the child grows up. As a parent, I know we have run through several different ideas by each of our children as to what they will study in college and what they want to do with their life. Parents are often willing to put money into dance classes, athletic programs, and training to help their children become the best career person or student of a particular field of study. Often though they forget one critical area that every career needs for success. It is the one thing in which all fields rely on and what every successful individual in whatever field they choose needs to possess. What is this "one thing" you may ask that crosses every career and discipline? It is the ability to effectively communicate. Communication is not just public speaking. It is the day to day exchange of ideas and concepts between co-workers, management, the public, and the many other people we come into contact with each day. Whether your child is a doctor explaining a diagnoses to an anxious family in a waiting room, or delivering a speech at a medical symposium, or an IT professional working with colleagues to solve a programming problem, or musician trying to organize a concert, they will be using communication skills.
Communication skills are more than just talking. These skills include listening, processing, verbal and non-verbal skills, deciphering, organizing thoughts and ideas, presenting, and understanding who they are speaking with regardless of the situation. In today's world, these are skills most teens are lacking and they often do not understand the value of them. You will often hear a teen say, "I don't need to take a communications class because I won't have to give a speech in the career I am going into." Well, that is just an assumption that can not be made. We need to drop the idea that a communications class or speech class is just about giving speeches. Yes, that is a component but the major idea is teaching students the different aspects of communication whether those are with them and one other person or within a whole group of people. In fact, "Some experts have estimated that the average business executive spends 75 to 80 percent of the time communicating, about 45 minutes of every hour."
As our technology progresses, information is readily available at our fingertips. The future of successful people and leaders will depend on their ability to communicate this information and how it affects those around them and what actions steps are needed to utilize the information. If there is one skill every student should spend some time learning it is how to communicate effectively - from active listening, to following directions, to talking about their ideas. As Lee Iacocca once said, "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." Make sure your students have opportunities to learn and practice communication skills to become effective communicators!