6 Steps to Improved Real World Communication

omgPhoto courtesy of Tama Leaver

As a parent of children born into Generations Y and Z (born between 1980-present), I’m feel like I’m constantly nudging them to communicate more.  You know, the “old fashioned” kind of communication – the kind where you speak to others, face to face, without using an electronic device, and really laughing out loud.

With the constant advancement of technology, it’s a safe bet that the way we communicate with our friends and loved ones has changed forever. The important thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to change completely.

Those of us who grew up in Generation X (born 1965-1979) were raised with a pleasant mixture of basic technology awareness combined with real world communication skills. Most of us who are now approaching 40 spent our crucial developmental years without even one computer in our homes! We whiled away our childhoods playing with the neighborhood kids, engaged in make-believe games - and as teens, writing love notes on paper and talking endlessly on phones with cords.

Our children, on the other hand, have been raised with cell phones to distract them while we changed their diapers, iPod touches on their 8th birthdays, Instagram accounts and Facebook profiles.  Even their school interactions are shifting toward the impersonal, with more and more learning and instruction taking place on Smart Boards, iPads and laptop computers.

As a result, many of today’s young people have a serious deficit when it comes to communication skills, making real life relationships difficult to navigate. I’ve witnessed this phenomenon first hand, and frankly, I’m more than a little bit concerned. Fostering and nurturing friendships and family bonds are skills that are learned. The problem?     No one’s teaching them.

If you have a Gen Y or Z child (or are one yourself), try implementing some of the following simple steps to ensure better all-around relationship success.

  1. Say those three little words. With the foundations of so many relationships today being built on the internet and via text messaging, many people have had a brainfart when it comes to showing emotions in person. If someone is important to you – tell them! Show your appreciation for the people in your life, and say “I love you” to your family members at least once a day.
  2. Make eye contact. This is a skill that has fallen victim to the replacement of real life conversations with text messages.  Many people today find eye contact uncomfortable simply because texting doesn’t require it. To get more comfortable with looking into someone’s baby blues, you’ll need to practice. When you’re listening to a friend speak, look at them. Try not turn your attention away at the slightest distraction.
  3. Quality over quantity. It’s ok to text and email. There’s no fighting it – we’re living the technology era. However, it doesn’t take much effort to spend some quality time each day with those who mean the most to you. Quality in this case means in-person interactions with no screens.
  4. Call instead of text. The next time you need to get ahold of somebody – why not give them a ring instead of shooting them another text? A phone call is more personal, and many people have simply dropped the habit of talking on the phone.
  5. Ask questions. During those times you set aside for quality interaction – show your interest in others by asking them poignant questions about their well-being.  Inquire about their day, or simply ask pointedly, “How’ve you been?”  Maintaining eye contact and listening intently to the answer lets people know that you care about what they have to say.
  6. Leave the phone at home. I know it sounds impossible, but it’s really not.  After you leave your phone at home once, you’ll experience a sense of freedom. If it’s not an absolute necessity, turn it off or let it charge on the kitchen counter while you’re enjoying time with your friends or family.

Most importantly, make real life interactions a priority. If you must have your cell phone with you during family or other social outings, keep it silenced and refrain from checking it too often. As you try to make the most of this self-learning process called life, staying engaged in the people around you is one of the most enjoyable things that you might’ve never even realized you’ve been missing.

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