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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Learning to communicate well is more than just learning English grammar

Dutch people talking on the streets.Image via Wikipedia adapted from Etiquette Moms: Six Communication Skills Everyone Should Know
Teaching how to communicate politely and effectively is one of a parent’s most important tasks. Assuming that students will learn proper communication skills without guidance is a big mistake. People should begin learning basic communication skills at birth and continue. Communicating well with others is a basic tenet of a mature society.
On page 195 of her book, Emily Post’s Etiquette, Peggy Post lists six basics of communication. First, she advises, make eye contact. It is important to establish eye contact with the person with whom one is speaking. Looking directly at the other person in the conversation shows interest and gives respect. some students need to be taught that looking away is a sign of disinterest and is not good manners.
Second, speak clearly and correctly. Using good pronunciation, not rushing speech and using good grammar are all aspects of communication that teachers should model for children. Teachers should pay attention to how their students are speaking and gently correct without embarrassing. There is no need to correct mistakes in front of others since doing so may cause children to feel self-conscious, inhibiting their speech in public.
Third, take turns and don’t interrupt. Students usually must be trained not to jump into a conversation just because they feel like talking. It is important that teachers curb this behavior and teach students self-control. When a students interrupt, the teacher should stop the conversation, firmly tell interrupting students to wait their turn, and then pick-up the conversation where they left off.
Fourth, pay attention and respond appropriately. Modeling good listening skills is the best way to teach good listening. When conversing with students, teachers should listen attentively and repeat key phrases back to the student so that the student feels heard. Ask appropriate questions and allow the student to respond. Show interest in what the student has to say. The best conversationalists are those who listen well.
Fifth, enter conversations politely. There is a correct way to join a conversation that uses good manners. If teachers consistently demonstrate how to politely enter a conversation, overtime, students will learn the practice. Teachers should show students how to approach the group quietly, smile to those in conversation, listen to what people are saying and wait until they are spoken to before speaking.
It is also important for teachers to teach students how to behave politely when someone joins an active conversation. Those in the group should smile and nod to recognize the person joining them, and when the speaker finishes, the group can greet the newcomer and make introductions.
Finally, Post notes that one should end conversations pleasantly. Walking away from a conversation with good manners is a crucial skill to possess and one that teachers should work hard at teaching. Teachers should encourage children to leave a conversation saying some pleasantry such as, “I promised my cousin that I would throw the ball with him and so I need to go now, but it was really nice talking to you.”
Other important skills that teachers should focus on when teaching basic communicational skills are controlling volume, not using “toilet talk” and keeping private matters private.
Teachers should also help students to understand nonverbal communication and cues. Rude facial expressions like eye rolling and grimaces, as well as yawning at a speaker, hair twisting, turning one’s back to the speaker, finger nail picking and checking one’s watch, are all bad manners. Children need to learn that their nonverbal actions and behaviors can make people feel uncomfortable. Learning to read other people’s nonverbal cues is an important lesson too. And with time, students begin to understand when to end conversations, finish a story or change a subject.
Being an adept communicator is a necessary skill in today’s world. Students need guidance to learn how to communicate effectively and politely. Good listening skills, self-control and sensitivity are all skills that are learned.

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