Guest post: comms lessons from an 11-year-old

Photo of my daughter looking out to sea from the cliffThanks to the Easter school holidays I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks hanging out with my daughter. Like many 11-year-olds she’s very wise and tells it like it is, so I interviewed her about her views on communication for this month’s guest slot. Listening to young people more is something we should all do.

Why is communication important?
It is really important to communicate your views and to listen to others’ views as well. Then they will understand where you’re coming from and you will understand them. So you won’t feel clueless or lost about what is going on.

Comms lesson: listening is just as important as talking or emailing. For mutual understanding, communication must be 2-way.

What difference does communicating make to you and your friends?
We can understand each other’s ideas and views, so can have a good time in each other’s company. We mostly talk about random stuff and then we find things we have in common. I wouldn’t be friends with them if I didn’t know anything about them – not because they’re horrible, it’s just I wouldn’t know what they’re like or what interests them.

Comms lesson: workplace communication doesn’t just have to be about work. If your team get to know each other better as people, they will have a stronger bond and team spirit. Find the common ground.

What difference does communication make to your football team?
We communicate while we’re playing so that we know where to pass the ball and where to run to. Communication isn’t just verbal, sometimes we point where we want to go. That means we get better opportunities to score – and if you score you win. My team was unbeaten between September and March so our communication must be pretty good!

Comms lesson: use a range of different communication methods so that you can adapt to different contexts. Be clear about your overall purpose and the end results you want to see so that the best method for any given scenario can be selected.

Tell me about a time when communication has gone wrong.
Last term we had some homework about Shakespeare and the homework sheet wasn’t very clear. It mentioned two males and then said write about ‘him’. There were misunderstandings about which man to write about. Some people did it wrong and got into trouble. I had an argument with a friend about it because we both thought we had to write about a different person. I felt cross, irritated and indignant, but we said sorry to each other and made friends again later.

Comms lesson: it’s always worth asking a colleague to read through a written piece before you send it, to check that they understand it in the way you intended.

What should adults remember about communication?
That it doesn’t just benefit them. Even though we are kids, we still need you to talk to us. We have just as much right to know what’s going on in our world. We feel left out if we don’t know what’s happening or what you’re talking about.

Comms lesson: remember to consider all audience groups. Each one will have different perspectives and needs. To move forward as an organisation, everyone must feel involved so it’s important to engage them.

What’s the best example of communication that you can think of?
Our coach telling us tactics for the cup final in the autumn. We used what he told us to win the cup! He explained exactly what he wanted everyone to do and used lots of detail. We built up our understanding of tactics over time because we train every Friday. We weren’t just thrown into it.

Comms lesson: be clear about everyone’s role and discuss things regularly so that knowledge and understanding are built over time. That way, when crunch points arise everyone is already clear and ready to work together.

Tell us about Communication Guy.

A picture of a super hero drawn by my then-7-year-old. Explanation about him is in the interview text.
A super hero drawn by my then-7-year-old

I drew him when I was 7. I was inspired by a story that Mum told me about 2 people at her work who sat next to each other but emailed rather than talked to each other. I couldn’t believe that people couldn’t be bothered to talk to each other. How are their social skills going to develop?

That’s why Communication Guy has 2 people chatting to each other on his cape.

Comms lesson: remember the human side of communication that can help build relationships and connections (and, yes, social skills!).

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this blog as much as she will enjoy eating the Hotel Chocolat Fruit Smoothie chocolates I have promised to give her as a fee for the interview!

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