For 25 years, my organization, The Institute for Cultural Communicators, has been helping the next generation get ready to speak. With all the needs in the world, why is this our focus?
Being ready to speak in any situation is a foundational skill for success in education and in life. It prepares students for every stage, gives them tools for whatever comes their way.
Here are five ways communication skills help your student at school and beyond.
1. Your student is bully resilient.
Though they can look very different from the class bullies we grew up with, bullies are still a reality in the lives of many school-aged children. They may not be calling our students out for a fist fight on the playground after school, but they leverage their own insecurities to prey on our youth’s vulnerabilities in new ways.
The impacts of bullying are devastating for years, and in many cases follow a student into adulthood. Bullying is not limited to in-person environments either. According to Frontiers Public Health Journal, “Cyberbullying is well-recognized as a severe public health issue which affects both adolescents and children.” Research consistently demonstrates cyberbullying is on the increase, with some studies noting current rates for our global youth are as high as 46.3% to 57.5%.
Now for the good news! We can help our students to become bully resilient. In their June 2022 article titled “7 Ways to Build Social Skills and Prevent Bullying,” the online education organization Verywell Family addresses the relationship between communication skills and bullying: “Not only will [our students] have the ability to communicate with other students and make friends, but they also are more likely to have the confidence and courage to tell a bully to stop if they are ever targeted.”
Social skills begin with the ability to communicate in the moment. In other words, students who are ready to speak acquire a “protective factor against bullying.” Students equipped with the ability to express their ideas in the moment show up for themselves and their peers. They make a difference in their communities. They help everyone around them feel safer.
2. Your student is more confident.
Think about the last time you were in a conversation with someone who exuded confidence. How ready were you to share a different perspective? Here’s what commonly happens. If you can communicate your ideas and I cannot, it’s only a matter of time until I believe you must be right.
That’s true of our students too. Is that what you want for them? To get stuck questioning their beliefs because they can’t articulate them?
Lacking confidence is a major barrier to effective communication. Shyness, difficulty being assertive, or low self-worth hinder our ability to make our needs and opinions known. In the same way, communication skills grow confidence. The practiced communicator is ready to speak when the opportunity arises. Each time she speaks, her confidence increases.
This confidence shows up in every facet of student life from academics to athletics, music to math, biology to Bible. Our students’ ability to share their ideas in one area of life fortifies their confidence to speak up in other places. Their readiness to speak – or lack of it – is continually being reinforced.
And we can do something to support their growing confidence. We can help students to be ready to speak in any situation they encounter, continually boosting their confidence to speak the next time.
3. Your student is a better student.
The research suggests that the best oral communicators become better writers. One of the most common academic assessments is the essay. The best speakers also write the best essays. Why is that?
To begin with, intentional communicators think about the impact of their words – all of their words, spoken and written. Speakers learn to weigh their words in every situation. How will this audience receive this message? How will she feel? How will he react?
Spending time deliberately honing their speaking skills bolsters the ability to communicate both orally and in writing across any industries. Industry leader Forbes magazine reminds us these skills are “one of the best ways to remain consistently employable – no matter your profession.” Whether your student is planning to become a dentist, missionary, pianist, writer, or engineer, practicing communication is one of the best ways they can prepare themselves.
Effective communicators consider the meanings of words for themselves and for others. They value ideas. They think more critically. They listen better. When your student is ready to speak, they are ready to learn.
Want a detailed look at how your student’s communication skills and other vital skills for success are developing? Help yourself to our free Readiness Assessment.
4. Your student has healthy relationships.
There’s plenty of marriage advice about this topic. Every marriage enhancement book, seminar, counselor, and sermon is founded on communication. The strength of the marriage is rooted in its communication. But that’s not only true of marriage relationships.
Communication is the foundation of every healthy relationship. If you believe that’s true, your students need to be practicing it now.
They will certainly experience many types of relationships as they grow up. Wouldn’t it be great for them to begin recognizing the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship now? Is it possible they could dodge some of the mistakes we made?
Becoming ready to speak includes so many hallmarks of healthy relationships. Being ready to speak requires being ready to set aside time for communication without distractions. It means making the message clear for the other person. The communicator thinks about what they want to say and how the message might be received. They are ready to listen, own their part, say “I’m sorry,” ask “How can I help?” They say “thank you” and “I love you.” And “what matters to you matters to me.”
Does that sound like the relationship you want to have with your own students? Does this describe the kind of relationships you’d like them to create with friends? Colleagues? Fellow students? Co-workers? Future partners? When students are ready to speak, they are ready to nurture relationships in a healthy way.
5. Your student gains self-efficacy.
The relationship between being ready to speak and self-efficacy has been studied for decades. We find an increasingly strong correlation in the research. My definition of self-efficacy for our students is: a student’s beliefs about their abilities significantly influences their achievement. In other words, whether Tommy believes he can or believes he can’t, he’s probably right. At least that’s how he’ll perform.
We also know the more Esther feels ready to speak, the more she believes she has something valuable to say. And the more value she feels she can contribute, the greater her self-efficacy. The greater her self-efficacy, the harder she will try to learn new things and accomplish difficult tasks.
The results of a study in self-efficacy of healthcare professionals were published in March 2021. In summary, the study revealed the best way to improve self-efficacy for these professionals was to improve their communication skills. In other words, being ready to speak in every circumstance empowered them to believe they could perform what was needed.
So why wait? Our students don’t need to get all the way to a profession to learn the importance of being ready to speak. You can start coaching them at home in your Everyday Conversations, the most accessible way to grow self-efficacy into your students. When they recognize they have something meaningful to contribute in everyday, ordinary conversations, they look for ways to make a contribution in larger spheres of influence. Eventually, they believe they can make a difference. Isn’t that what we all want for our students?
Getting your student ready to speak is possibly the most important thing you can do for them this school year. It will empower them to succeed in all the different spheres in which they find themselves.
Just by reading this post, I can tell you care enough to invest in your students. They are fortunate to have you. I’m rooting for you now, and praying for a flourishing year for you and your students. Share some ideas in the comments of how you can practice helping them speak with confidence at home.
Dr. Teresa Moon, founding President and CEO of the Institute for Cultural Communicators, is an internationally-recognized seminar speaker, education consultant, author, and leadership coach. Each year, she travels globally equipping students, teachers, and parents to become “cultural communicators,” transforming ordinary students into extraordinary communicators and authentic leaders.