Four Reasons Why You Must Learn to Communicate


Many of us think we are effectively communicating with young people but somewhere between the transmitter and the receiver there is a breakdown. What are some practical ways to fix this disconnect?

One of my greatest concerns for the teachers, coaches, employers and youth pastors we work with across the world is simply this: We think we are communicating with our young people… but we aren't.

In nationwide surveys, results continue to show that teachers assume they are successful at transmitting information in the classroom, while the students disagree—they remain clueless. (Both the teacher and the students were referring to the same classroom). The same goes for employers. Managers think they have communicated the essentials to their teams, but team members languish in vague uncertainty. They remain fuzzy not focused. Somewhere between the transmitter and the receiver there is a breakdown.

Let me offer you four huge reasons why we must learn to communicate effectively with the next generation of young people:

1. Ambiguity is greater now than at any time in modern history.

So many different values and schools of thought—pluralism is everywhere. While this in itself is not bad, it’s created a greater degree of ambiguity among our youth. There is seldom one right answer, there are often so many options, there is such disagreement as to what is right and wrong—it often paralyzes kids from making decisions. They seldom move in one direction. We must help them learn to cut through these various consumer messages and help them gain some direction.

2. Young people are often unwilling to work at comprehension or application.

Let’s face it. We teach students who have increasingly grown up with everything at their fingertips. Convenience is king. So is speed. They can be passive and still get what they want, since it can be ordered or posted on a screen. They have not been taught to work hard at understanding; we will not let them fail. Communicators must be better because our audience doesn't want to work at listening or receiving information.

3. Information is fully accessible to kids at any age.

You know this well. Kids are on the Internet at four years old – or earlier! Information is ubiquitous. Even if it is incorrect or damaging, kids assume it’s right if it’s on the Internet. This, however, makes good communication so valuable. Since there are so many messages, fewer get through the “filters” of students’ minds and hearts. It’s the law of supply and demand. When there is a great supply, demand goes down. When there is a wealth of information there is a poverty of attention. Communicators must work at delivering messages that are different and make it through the filter.

4. Young people have been conditioned to be consumers.

One hundred years ago, teachers and employers put the onus on the young person to get what they needed in life. It was up to them—it was their responsibility—to learn. Today, it’s the other way around. Kids are not contributors as adolescents, they are consumers. They are the “customer” in college and it’s up to the professor to “help them succeed.” The onus is now on the messenger to push their message through to the listener. We can either get mad or get busy. Adults must learn to communicate in this new reality.

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