Communication skills are such a big deal. Without honing these skills, we may convey things we never intended to – or leave out important pieces of information that can change everything! Poor conversational skills can potentially offend or hurt, or don’t make the sale. Excellent communication skills are one of the top job skills potential employees are looking for in new hires. Expertise in this area will contribute to your kids’ success, vocationally, and relationally. So, let’s take a minute and talk about common communication killers and how to fix them.
Not meeting someone’s gaze can communicate that you are trying to hide something, such as an agenda or information. It can also convey social awkwardness. In our culture, eye contact speaks loudly.
Recently, my husband was in a situation in a store where one of the people in line was getting loud and quarrelsome. My husband was speaking to the clerk when this person started directing belligerent comments to him. My husband stopped, turned around, and just looked at the man; did not engage verbally, just looked at him.
Now, my husband is a trained psychologist and martial artist and thus, not easily intimidated, so I don’t recommend this approach for everyone, however, this man who had been causing extreme discomfort in this public space stopped ranting. All because of someone with a calm, non-anxious presence who was willing to make eye contact.
Fix-It: Practice making eye contact with the people in your home when you are talking to them. “Look at my eyes” is a significant first step with littles. Put the phone or other tech devices aside as you converse with others. Eat meals together with no tech present and make a point of seeing and speaking with each other. The family table is a great place to gather and practice all sorts of communication skills
Often, we approach situations with the attitude that there is one right or wrong way of dealing with an issue. Instead of this type of “black and white” thinking, consider the possibilities. This is much like creating a pro-pro list instead of a pro-con list. When conflict arises, how can a win-win outcome be achieved? What would be a positive solution for everyone? Of course, sometimes people opt-out and you can’t win with them. It will take even more creative brainstorming on your part to come up with a winning scenario for both of you when the other person lacks the maturity or concern to help make it happen with you.
Fix-It: When conflict arises, pause and reflect on how you can contribute to positive outcomes for everyone. Brainstorm those “win-win” possibilities. Create a “pro-pro” chart in a problematic situation and determine how to bring about a good result.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw.
Attacking someone’s character instead of commenting on what they say or do. Be clear about what a person is doing versus who they are. Attacking someone often can mean that we don’t have empathy or compassion for them.
Fix-It: Teach your kids the difference between actions or behavior and the value of the person. Discuss the difference between what your kids “do” and their value as a person. Talk in terms of behavior. For example, you might say “You broke the dish.” or “You did not do your chores.” instead of phrases such as “You are careless.” or “You are lazy.” Help your kids name emotions and teach them to identify the feelings of others. Use phrases like “Mommy is sad that the dish was broken”, “Suzy is disappointed that the toy is lost” and ask “Are you happy that snow is falling?” Knowing how to name specific feelings is a great first step in understanding people. Understanding can lead to empathy and compassion, which leads to clear communication!
It’s easy to assume we know what someone is trying to say and interrupt or jump to conclusions. Listen to understand. Do you listen to hear someone’s heart? This goes beyond just listening to the words, but taking the time to listen to the other person’s heart.
Fix-It: Don’t interrupt when someone else is talking. Hear them through to the end of what they have to say. Respond, “So what I hear you saying is this.” Develop excellent listening skills. Maintain objectivity in the conversation. Push the pause button and take breaks as needed. Remind yourself and the other person that you are on the same team with the same objectives.
We should all display a healthy curiosity about people and what is going on in their lives. Social media teaches and enforces self-absorption. People are hungry to be known, to share what’s important to them, to have someone hear their deepest hopes, dreams, and longings- to have a friend.
Fix-It: Develop the art of questioning with curiosity. Be a student of the world and people. Learn to find out about people; discover their likes, dislikes, wants, and needs.
Being Indirect/Avoiding Difficult Conversations
No one likes to have awkward or difficult conversations. But sometimes they are inevitable. Whether it is sharing about a difficult diagnosis, confronting someone you love about unhealthy behavior or problems at work, we all tend to avoid talking about it. Avoidance can bring its own set of challenges, especially in regards to issues that have a time factor attached.
Fix-It: Practice what you want to say- write it out to get clear on what the real issue is and how you might go about solving it. Do a test run with someone who is objective. In other words, act out the potential conversation. Bring your notes with you if they bring you confidence and pause. Take breaks as needed to get perspective, calm down, and reiterate the belief that you are all on the same team, working towards the same goals.
Practice and Intention
Like all abilities, communication will improve with practice and intention. Teaching our kids how to communicate well is one of the most vital skills we can give them. That is true regardless of what job or industry they go into or whether they have a large family or stay single.
I’d love to hear how you are intentionally teaching communication skills in your family, so drop me a line here or on Instagram and Facebook.
If you want resources for teaching these types of Soft Skills in your homeschool, take a look around our website and blog. Or listen to our podcast at the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network where we focus on tips and resources for teaching soft skills and life skills for all age groups. Our podcasts, blog, e-books, and online classes can help with teaching your homeschoolers about Stewardship, Teamwork, Career Choices, and Public Speaking.
Proverbs 25:11 A Word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
The Basics of Good Communication
Communication is the most important of all the soft skills. It is a valuable basic life skill and affects every area of our lives. It enables success at work and in relationships with family and friends. It’s our ambition at True North Homeschool Academy to help you teach those critical and practical life skills, so, of course, communication skills are of the utmost importance to us. Through the years, we have discovered and utilized many resources that we will share right here!
Four Essential Types of Communication:
- Verbal – Verbal communication skills are ranked first among a job candidate’s “must-have” qualifications.
- Written – This type of communication is essential both for business and enjoyment.
- Non-verbal – Non-verbal communication includes things such as the way we dress, signals, and body language.
- Emotional – Emotional communication skills vastly improve both business and personal relationships.
Let’s Break Down Each Type of Communication:
Verbal Communication Skills
We are all familiar with verbal skills: this includes how well you speak or write, how concise you are in conveying your message, and how winsomely persuasive you are during verbal interaction. There are four types of verbal communication. They are:
- Intra-personal Communication – This form of communication is extremely private and restricted to ourselves. This can include private journaling, our thought process, and even metacognition. Positive self-talk is an important skill your child can learn that will help them through difficult times when they may be tempted to dwell on negative thoughts. Check out our Affirmation Cards to keep positive thoughts flowing!
- Interpersonal Communication – This form of communication takes place between two individuals and is thus a one-on-one conversation.
- Small-Group Communication – This type of interaction takes place amongst a small group.
- Public Communication – Speaking to a large group publically or even public writing can be considered as part of this form of communication. Our excellent Speech Club is a resource for teaching students to speak and gain the confidence to participate in public speaking.
Written Communication Skills in Business
- Transactional Written Communication – This is a message sent to get results.
- Informational Written Communication – In this type of business communication, the sender is delivering a message for the receiver’s benefit. Since this is less dependent on the receiver, there is no response needed. If the receiver has questions or concerns that would bring the conversation back to transactional communication.
- Instructional Written Communication – This message gives receivers directions for a specific task.
Written Communication for Entertainment
Instead of written or oral words, non-written communication relies on non-verbal cues like physical movement, symbols, signals, etc. to express feelings, attitudes, or to give information. These most often include:
- Eye Contact
- Facial Expressions
- Posture and Body Orientation
- Space and Distance
Depending on how and where you were raised, you may express some emotions differently. Factors that can affect our emotional communication include gender, social morays, and more. Here we will consider six basic feelings:
Emotion is commonly expressed with:
- Facial Expressions (such as smiling)
- Body Language (using a relaxed stance)
- Tone of Voice
Now that we have broken down the primary forms of communication, you can see that excellent communication is a worthy goal. Skills like how to communicate with one another have a massive payoff in our work and personal lives. Be sure to include projects and lessons that will help your child learn to express themselves in your home and your homeschool.
What are the vital communication skills to teach your kids, regardless of age?
- Basic etiquette and Good Manners
- Netiquette (good manners and thoughtfulness online)
- The Art of Small Talk (conversational skills like simple jokes and stories)
- Name Emotions (pointing these out to your children will help them to identify and deal with them readily)
- Help Them Set Goals (knowing their end game will allow them to communicate effectively in any situation)
- Show Them How to Evaluate (and then use the most effective form of communication)
- Mindfulness (let them know it is ok to “push the pause” button and be mindful of themselves and others)
- Awareness (help them become aware of their nonverbal communication)
- Active Listening Skills ( they can become engaged and active listeners)
- The Capacity to Communicate with Self-confidence and Humility
- Identify and Understand (so they can empathize with the emotions of others and deal with their feelings as well)
We all need to be able to express thoughts and feelings well and accurately. We are so confident that communication is an essential soft skill that it is central to many of the resources you will find on our website or at the Soft Skills 101 Podcast.
It’s easy to fall into the idea that these types of soft skills are just something we are good at or not! But that’s not true – everyone can learn to be better at these types of things. Like we mentioned, soft skills like communication make our lives and relationships better! In this digital age, as careers and our workforce continues to change, the human touch of excellent communication becomes even more valuable. Take a quick look at some of our ideas and resources (listed & linked below), and as always, let us know how we can support you in your homeschooling!
Want support in teaching your kids communication skills?
Listen on your favorite app or visit the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Website for more discussions about teaching our children and check out our Podcasts on Communication:
(The following post is written by True North Homeschool Academy Special Needs Instructor Amy Vickery.)
Talk to Me
For your children who struggle with academics, communication can be a challenge too. From finding the right words to express feelings, needs and wants, to be able to express themselves on paper, communication challenges come in many different forms. These challenges can change over time, showing up for a period of time and then disappearing, only to show up in a new way somewhere else. Here are some challenges your child may face, and some ways to help support their challenges.
Listening Comprehension Skills:
When dealing with communication, the first thing you have to consider is a child’s ability to understand what they hear. If they cannot follow simple directions, they may be struggling with listening comprehension rather than just being “difficult” or “ignoring” you. A child who struggles with listening comprehension is not going to understand what is being said in a conversation (may have a hard time staying on topic, or responding appropriately), and will likely not pick up naturally the conversational skills other children do.
Here are some suggestions for working on listening comprehension:
- Give directions one step at a time. Once this is mastered, go to 2 steps at a time, then 3.
- Keep directions short…use fewer words when possible.
- Allow time to process the direction before saying anything else.
- If you repeat the direction, don’t change how you said it. Say it exactly the same way again. Don’t change what you are saying until you know for sure they have heard you. When you change the words you are using, the brain takes it as new information, and begins processing it as a totally new direction. By using the same words, the brain can continue to process the information that it took in the first time you said it.
Our society has greatly changed over the past years. At one point, boys and men were not supposed to show or express emotions, to talk about feelings, or admit when they were hurt. Now our society expects everyone to be able to express feelings, empathize and otherwise understand complex emotions from a very young age. As a child with Autism, my son found this very difficult and continues to struggle with it at times.
Some ways I help him are:
- Talking about my feelings and emotions
- Asking questions when he seems to be unable to express himself or unaware of his emotions
- Seeking outside help at times to help him work through his emotions and identify what may be going on.
- Using emotion boards to allow nonverbal communication of feelings. This can also be done through art, drawing, writing, play and other forms of expression).
- Be aware that emotional upset decreases a child’s ability to express emotions and thoughts, and will limit or stop learning completely.
Talking to strangers:
Some children can be overly shy while others can be overly friendly. Both are difficult situations to deal with at times.
Some ways to help with knowing how to talk to people:
- Give suggestions (almost like a script) of how to introduce oneself, ask questions, talk about subjects interesting to your child and the other child, give compliments, accept compliments, etc. For some ideas, check out the Boystown Social Skills Posters.
- If you have a child who is learning a social skill and needs reminders, set up a small cue that only the two of you know about (like a wink or holding up 1 finger, etc.), that you can do “secretly” to remind him.
- Use a visual cue like “Social Circles” to help children who are overly friendly understand limits.
Our kids that are unique, different, and/or struggle sometimes have difficulty making or keeping friends.
Some ways to help:
- Talk to them about how others feel and think as you interact with people in public, watch tv, and talk to one another.
- Find something they are interested in, and find a class or a club involving that interest – or start one! (having something in common can be a beginning point for friendship).
- Get involved with a church or family social organization that has a variety of kids of different ages and abilities.
Whatever stage of development your child is in, the ability to communicate is essential to navigating the social world. With a little help and support, even our children who struggle can learn to make and keep friends, communicate with individuals of all ages, and be able to advocate for themselves as they become more independent with time.
Feel like you need MORE help with your struggling learner? Check out our great struggling learner program at True North Homeschool Academy. We also do tutoring for struggling learners, as well as academic advising.
Amy Vickrey, MSE is a mother of a seven-year-old and almost three-year-old. Her homeschool journey began over 20 years ago when she saw how homeschooling enabled her sister who had memory issues and fell through the crack at school, to graduate and go to college. Amy knew then she wanted to implement what she saw – the love and individual attention – into her own teaching. She now homeschools her two boys and loves every minute of it! Having completed the second year of their homeschool journey, she is looking forward to many more to come!
Amy holds a Masters of Science in Education, Specializing in Curriculum and Instruction, from the University of Central Missouri and a Bachelors of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from Texas State University-San Marcos. Also, she spent 2 years of college studying Interpretation for the Deaf and Deaf Studies and knows American Sign Language. Her teaching certifications include Special Education, English as a Second Language and Generalist (early childhood through fourth). She is now part of the Struggling Learners Department of True North Homeschool Academy and loves the discovery approach to learning. Teaching children how to learn will help them reach their goals and dreams.
Amy Vickrey states, “My passion for learning and being a lifelong learner is something I want to pass on to the children I teach, as well as my own children. Making learning fun and engaging is an important part of this process. My goal is to lift others up to help them achieve their own goals and dreams.”
When homeschooling a struggling learner, communication can be difficult, to say the least. Without healthy communication, it will be impossible to help your child, let alone teach them effectively so that they make real progress.
As a parent to an Asperger son who struggles in several areas, I have been blessed with a child who communicates effectively. I have learned a lot from him and our journey these last 11 years as a homeschooling family that has been characterized by a close relationship. I learned this from a great resource I frequently use, AspergerExperts.com. The founder, who is a young man with Aspergers, teaches about what he calls defense mode and how to get your child out of it.
So what makes the difference? Let me share these five key communication strategies to help you with YOUR struggling learner.
1) Intentionally enter their world.
I must have instinctively known this because it’s something I’ve always done. I take note of my son’s interests, and I come alongside him to learn and listen.
Whether that was building legos with him or playing cars when he was young or even attempting to play a video game, I make it a point to spend time doing what he loves. This builds trust.
Trust is a foundation of communication, which leads me to the second point:
2) Spend time with your struggling learner APART from school.
Years ago I learned that my son VALUES spending time with me. To him, going out to lunch or coffee together satisfies him the most. So I’ve made a point of going out once a week with him for coffee or lunch. Sometimes we take school with us and do school after our food comes. Other times, we just talk.
Regardless, taking this time together on a regular basis sends the message to him that I value his company and this has helped our schooling tremendously.
3) Actively listen.
It’s so easy as a parent to get defensive and feel like you’ve failed. I’ve been there many, many times. But when I take the time to LISTEN to my son and what he has to say, I can truly understand what’s going on with him.
Case in point: several months ago I had him evaluated at LearningRx, and we found out he struggles with visual processing. Several weeks after we were working on school he told me: he CANNOT visualize and that made him upset. I didn’t realize, and so for all those years, I was mistakenly approaching school. I had been using a lot of visual resources rather than audio ones. I had completely missed it!
But because I actively listened to what my son was saying, I finally understood, and now we’re using more audio resources.
4) Treat your child with respect.
Respect goes both ways. Of course as parents we deserve respect, but children need and deserve our respect. What does this mean practically?
It means little things like give your struggling learner advance warning. For instance, rather than demanding my son stop everything he is doing right now instantly, I give him at least a fifteen-minute warning. Or I will give him choices. Like, “Hey, would you like to do school at 10 or 10:30?”
And always always have empathy. I learned this most from Love and Logic. LEAD with empathy and mean it, especially if your son or daughter has made a wrong decision or they are struggling in a minor way. Because you never, never want to minimize their feelings or tell them they are not feeling a certain way. That will lead to them shutting down and not trusting you. Feelings are feelings and perceptions are reality.
So just saying a simple “I’m sad for you” when your child is struggling can go a long way!
5) Be consistent.
Now I confess I have a hard time with this, but it’s so important. When your child is having a hard time or being defiant, making empty threats is only going to make your situation worse. You’re training your child to ignore you until that moment when your tone gets serious, and they know they have to obey.
Communicating up front your expectations, and the consequences if these expectations are not met, is so important. And then follow through! And don’t threaten something that’s not realistic or will hurt you in the long run!
Communication is so important when teaching a struggling learner. In fact, communication is essential in EVERY aspect of life. These keys will not only help you with your child but will assist in all areas of your life!
Do you need more help with your struggling learner? Check out our special need courses, tutoring, and advising at True North Homeschool Academy.
Dana Susan Beasley, a graphic artist, writer, and musician, is principal/publisher/program director of AngelArts. Dedicated to providing excellently-designed ebooks, books, homeschooling curriculum, cards, stationery, gifts, and art services to homeschooling families, inspirational artists, entrepreneurs, and art enthusiasts, Dana delights in sharing her gifts and talents and the talents of others with people who are passionate about spiritual, personal, educational, professional, ministrial, artistic, and relational growth.
Married to Travis Beasley, Dana is a homeschooling mother to her Asperger son, Sam. She helped her husband start his architectural business, Essential Pillar Architecture, and assists him with marketing and administration.