Facebook Twitter

PROPER COMMUNICATION SKILLS ARE NOT INSTINCTIVE

SHARE PROPER COMMUNICATION SKILLS ARE NOT INSTINCTIVE

The point is that walking isn't really taught. Kids just seem to learn by trial and error. Adults will often provide spontaneous practice sessions for a beginning walker and reinforce the good effort of a few extra steps with a cheer or a hug, but there is no formal curriculum established for the new walker.

When the beginning walker or crawler shows an interest in stairs, an adult may provide some more informal instruction. At most, the child will be shown that it is best to go up the stairs head first and come down the stairs feet first, but even this piece of information may have to be learned by trial and error. The progress from crawling to walking the stairs just seems to happen.The transition from walking to running is not taught. At some point the child gets moving fast enough that both feet are off the ground for an instant, and she breaks into a run. The skipping skill does seem to get some attention from parents who, hand in hand with the kids, show how it is done.

The real big accomplishment is when the child finally learns to jump. After considerable time imitating the correct motion and not getting off the ground, something will click and the child will, for just a second, leave the ground.

Many assume that learning to talk or communicate is learned best the same way we learn to walk. The child learns to talk by imitating what she hears. She discovers what is effective and what is not by getting or not getting results. She gets called on in a school class or in church and answers and so learns to speak or communicate.

Communication can be taught through trial and error, but maybe it is time to question the assumption that this is the best way to teach people to communicate, since the experts tell us that 80 percent of our waking hours are spent in some form of communication.

The average U.S. worker spends about 50 percent of the working day communicating. This, of course, varies with the job, with some top-level management and salespersons involved in communication for 75 percent or more of their workday.

Since communication occupies such a big part of our lives, maybe it is too important to leave to chance. Snow College communications professor Rick Wheeler claims success in business is 85 percent dependent on effective communication and interpersonal skills and that 70 percent of the mistakes made in the workplace are attributed to ineffective communication.

Wheeler points out that we do try to teach and use good communication skills in the classroom, but wonders if we sometimes assume that good skills will be assimilated by students like the skill of walking.

Studies reviewed by Wheeler suggest that the activity of communication is not equally divided into reading, writing, speaking and listening. His data show that only 9 percent of the communication activity is writing, and 16 percent is reading, 30 percent speaking and 45 percent listening.

He makes the point that communication in teaching and learning in general may not fit these same percentages. It is probably obvious that school communications activities are far less than 30 percent speaking. In fact, at some levels we spend most of our time trying to get kids to stop talking; but this is another issue.

The point is that there is very little instruction in speaking as communication and, according to Wheeler, 80 percent of lost business in the United States is lost because of communication problems between some employee and a customer.

Personal success or failure in business or of a business enterprise is not always the measure of success or failure in life, but data about the importance of good communication in business should at least sensitize us to the scope of communication problems in other human endeavors.

Perhaps one of the most important skills we will ever learn is how to effectively communicate. If this is so, then communication can't be taught with all the fervor that we teach walking and jumping. This most important skill should not be left to chance.