Little children are inexperienced in communication, but as I will share, we can all learn some valuable communication lessons from them.
Lesson number one: Speak Plainly.
Adults say, “The honour of your presence is requested at the…blah blah blah…” Adults go to great lengths to use the right words, the perfect invitation and the most respectful language, but at the end of the day, it can often sound confusing, standoffish or pompous.
Children say, “Wanna come to my party?” Children put things simply, succinctly and honestly. They don’t worry about how it sounds. They just say what they mean and because they don’t know big fancy words, they don’t use them. Children don’t send mixed messages. They don’t use subtlety. They don’t mince words. They come right out and say what’s on their mind. It’s clear, bold and honest.
As adults, we do need to watch our tone and choose our words carefully, but we can all learn simplicity from our children. Winston Churchill said it best, “The short words are best, and the old words are best of all.”
Lesson Two: Listen Wide-Eyed.
Young children are notorious for their wide eyes as they soak up information. You may not think they are paying close attention, but they absorb almost everything around them. You know this because, if you aren’t careful, they repeat things you said that you wish you hadn’t.
We adults could learn a great deal from this trait. To a young child, everything is wondrous. When they ask a question, they don’t care whether that person is educated, important, powerful or well-respected. They expect an answer. They often don’t even much care if the answer is correct. How would they know otherwise?
I’m not saying we should take everything people say at face value or give credence to every Tom, Dick and Harry, but learning to listen with wonder as people talk is a skill we often lose. As we grow older, we think we know better, we have less time, less patience. We often only want to take the time and trouble to listen to people when we have to, when we really need something or when we really think they have something valuable to add.
Children give their undivided attention and soak in all the information they can comprehend. If we adults would only do that on a consistent basis, we would learn so much about each other that it would greatly increase our understanding of how best to communicate with others.
Lesson Three: Don’t let anyone distract you.
You may have noticed that little children are like a freight train barreling through anyone who dares to interrupt them or try to distract them from their goal. They will ask sixteen times in a row, if they have to, in order to obtain the cookie. I refer you to last Friday’s Communication Friday Funny where little Sophia, aged 2, wanted a lollipop.
As we grow older and wiser, we learn to become sensitive to other’s needs and this is a good thing, but we also learn to exchange our tenacity for fear and our sticktoitiveness for defeat. What we need to do is learn from our five year old examples and keep our eyes on the goal. Don’t give up our visions for comfort. Find a tactful and adult way to not let anyone distract us from our goals.
Lesson Four: Be Yourself!
Young children are who they are. They very rarely hide it. In fact, they don’t know they can and they don”t think they should. Adults learn that in order to be accepted, we need to conform. In order to be promoted, we may need to comply. In order to be effective, we may need to play the game. Let’s face it, if our kids did this, we’d call it pretend.
Adults often loose some of their sense of self as we play the game of life. We get away from what we want because of what we need. We move away from who we are in favor of who we think others need us to be.
When I was a kid, I was weird. “They” called me that. “They” is the popular kids. I moved around a lot as a kid and, since I was shy, it was hard to fit in anyway. However, being different (weird) made it that much more difficult. I was the one who didn’t have a history with them. I was the outsider. I was the one who said “dungarees” instead of “jeans.” I had a “pocket book” instead of a “purse.” I loved words and music not designer Sasoon labels (Okay, I just gave away my age there!) and I talked about justice and fairness while my peers talked about boys and beauty. I was the short one, the creative nerd.
Maybe you felt that way. Adults thought it was cute when I was young, but as I grew older, I found my peers didn’t agree. I tried to fit in. I tried not to be a weirdo. I didn’t try long because it just didn’t work and I was miserable being someone else.
So I learned very early in life what my daughter calls “Embracing Your Inner Weirdness.” And when I accepted Jesus, I realized that this is who God created me to be anyway.
Another lesson I learned after studying communication skills for many years is that, while children may want everyone to be the same, adults find that boring. Adults want to spend time with an individual, but by that time most of us have already spent too many years trying to be someone else. My advice to you is DON’T.
I’m five foot nuthin’, have an extremely goofy sense of humor, wear thick glasses, and love purple so much it’s the only color I wear. It’s me. It’s who I am and you know what? People remember me. They appreciate my creativity.
Don’t be like everyone else. God created you to be special. As you go about life trying to live as Christ would have you, also remember to be the person God crated you to be and not a carbon copy of someone else. He already created someone to be that guy!
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula. You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com. For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com