Why speaking skills still matter
Maribeth Kuzmeski, author of The Engaging Child: Raising Children to Speak, Write, and Have Relationship Skills Beyond Technology (Red Zone Publishing) shares tips on how to help your kids connect with people.
The mother of two teens tapped into her marketing and consulting background (where she's helped some of the world's most successful CEOs and entrepreneurs) to teach her children how to cultivate "connecting" skills they might not learn at school.
Are speaking, writing and relationship skills still important?
Maribeth Kuzmeski: The ability to connect isn't optional -- it's a survival skill. People can do business from any location at any time, but the only thing that sets individuals apart is their ability to influence, persuade, collaborate, problem solve, and conduct crucial conversations.
We need to take a proactive role in teaching our kids how to communicate with others in a genuine way. Your speaking style greatly influences the way other people treat you. If you talk softly, mumble your words or are fearful of speaking to others, you'll give the person to whom you're speaking the impression that you don't care, even if that couldn't be farther from the truth.
Do parents need to worry that kids will lack verbal conversation abilities if they spend their days texting?
Maribeth Kuzmeski: Unfortunately, our new technologically advanced society teaches us to use computers much more efficiently than it does to speak. In fact, many schools require students to take some sort of computer skills course, while public speaking is offered as an elective (if at all).
But that doesn't reflect the real world. Not all careers are built on computer use, but speaking (public and otherwise) is an essential requirement for professionals in all walks of life. We might be asked to give a presentation, train someone or just share our ideas with colleagues or potential clients.
An over-reliance on technology is stunting many children's social growth. It's easier than ever to refrain from facing our fears because a great deal of face-to-face communication can be avoided through the use of technology. This is especially true for the current generation of children, many of whom learned to type and text while learning to read!
How can we help kids develop strong relationship, speaking and writing skills?
Maribeth Kuzmeski: Parents need to teach social skills early and often. Practically from the day they're born, children observe and file away everything you say and do. Kids are looking for cues that will teach them how to behave, communicate and express their emotions.
Everyday exchanges are the most effective learning moments. Look at the world around you as one big connecting classroom. Be on the lookout for opportunities to encourage your child to be the main communicator. He can be complimentary at the post office or ask a question to someone new at a soccer game -- both good conversations starters.
Practice some examples of what kids can say to grownups. If a family friend asks a question about school or sports, for example, instead of giving yes or no answers, say, "My favorite subject is science, what did you like about school when you were my age?" Now your child has just sparked a conversation. Good communication skills need to be modeled just like when you're teaching children about values.
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