Ask a parent what’s the best way to communicate with his or her teenager and the most likely response will be “by text.” Communication methods have changed so drastically in the last couple of decades that actually speaking with someone seems to be a last-option choice. Yet clear, courteous communication remains crucial to successful business, school, and personal relationships.
Communication etiquette is a skill that many people do not even consider, yet how a person communicates can either open doors or close them. When some adults do not recognize the importance of communication etiquette, it is no wonder that many teenagers lack it altogether. While parents are teaching important life skills to their children—such as time, conflict, and financial management—they also should stress the value of polite, effective communication. Such skills will serve those teenagers well when they are off on their own in college or seeking employment.
A few tips:
- Texting should be reserved for informal, short messages. Students should not assume that a teacher or employer will communicate by text.
- Students should learn to check email once a day and respond promptly—within 24 hours. Email, rather than texting, is used more often by teachers, school administrators, and employers, and it allows for longer messages. When responding, students should use formal salutations. Do not address a teacher or employer by their first name unless asked to do so. Use complete sentences, check for spelling errors, avoid “text speak,” address all questions asked, and keep communication concise and to the point.
- Students should learn to address difficult issues instead of avoiding them. It is easier to simply not respond to a confrontational or complicated email or text; however, not responding indicates immaturity and disrespect. Conflicts will always arise and parents should teach their teenagers how to appropriately address them.
- Despite our digital communication preferences, nothing takes the place of face-to-face communication. Unfortunately, many teenagers—as well as adults—lack confidence and skill in communicating their ideas, questions, and comments in person. Parents should create opportunities for their teens to speak with adults in varying situations. Encourage them to be involved in classes or organizations in which they are required to speak or lead discussions. Remind them that no question is a stupid question. Students should be taught to look the other person in the eye when speaking, to shake hands, and to pay attention to body language. They should be taught to listen carefully and ask for clarification on anything confusing.
- Students and parents need to recognize that it is disrespectful to text and/or answer a call during face-to-face conversations, be it family time, during class, or in a meeting. If it is absolutely necessary to answer, excuse yourself first. Our smart phones are smart at distracting us, not at making us better communicators.
- Students should be careful of what they post on social media. Every time a student posts, he should ask himself if he would be comfortable with a school administrator or employer seeing it.
Parents can teach, model, and encourage their children to practice good communication skills, which are key to success in all areas of life.
P. Carol Jones is the author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able.” Visit www.towardcollegesuccess.com to read excerpts and to follow her blog. Ferah Aziz is a college coach with launchphase2. Visit www.launchphase2 to learn more about coaching for college bound students.