For most of us, reading and writing were part and parcel of our elementary curriculum. We were diligently taught how letters made sounds, sounds made syllables, syllables made words, and words made phrases and sentences. We were taught to process what we read, to read for information and the subtleties that were “between the lines.” Our ability to read aloud, as well as to understand what was printed, was shaped, measured and graded repeatedly. After learning how to read, we were taught to write, and similarly were guided to understand topic sentences, transitions, opinion vs. fact, etc. With this guidance our skills for reading and writing were then applied to learning; history, science, philosophy, etc.
Not so true for speaking and listening, the other communication elements; we entered school assumed to be proficient speakers and to know how to listen. I personally was a first-grade “chatterbox”, and my listening instruction was basically a threat to “be quiet or else”. For most, speaking and listening were not taught directly as were other subjects. It was assumed that speaking one to one, speaking in a group discussion or speaking publicly (oral reports, show and tell, etc.) were all the same.
Fast forward a decade and these elementary students are going to college, going on interviews, competing for jobs, vying for promotions at work, giving presentations, leading discussions and facilitating teams. Some will be offered training through their work; seminars in presentation skills, listening, team building, sales, leadership, etc. However, the vast majority will have to navigate this knowledge independently.
Employees, entrepreneurs, executives, managers and human resource professionals will identify gaps in work performance – their own or their direct reports. Communication disconnects continue; He just doesn’t “get it”; she needs to speak up; he comes across heavy-handed and not a team player; is it critical thinking or a language difference?; she needs to get to the point; too much detail; and the list goes on.
I wonder, if we were given as much guidance in speaking and listening as we were with reading and writing, might our workforce be better communicators? I certainly think so.
It’s never to late to learn. Speaking that Connects specializes in speech and presentation, listening, language, and learning for individuals and companies who want to close the communication gap, and raise the bar on communication performance.
Eileen N. Sinett