Communication Skills Set Up Youth for Success

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Communication is rarely as easy as A-B-C, yet it is critical to everyday life. Whether written or spoken, communication is one type of soft skill. Soft skills help people work well with others, and they are applicable to many areas of life – personal, academic and professional among others.

The National Social Anxiety Center reports fear of public speaking is the most common phobia in the U.S. Youth can become confident in their public speaking abilities over time through practice and with encouragement.

Families help youth overcome fear related to public speaking by starting small. A simple presentation to extended family members, friends or neighbors is one place to start.

Youth should choose a topic they enjoy learning about such as video games, gardening, or playing a sport. To prepare, youth need to organize their thoughts into an introduction, main ideas and a conclusion. Using notecards or typing an outline can help them feel more secure as a beginner but practice, practice, practice should be encouraged no matter their level of experience.

Livestock 4-H Club member Addison Duncan presents about making hay for the 4-H West District Activity Day in May 2021. She represented both her 4-H Club and Caldwell County in the public speaking contest.

Livestock 4-H Club member Addison Duncan presents about making hay for the 4-H West District Activity Day in May 2021. She represented both her 4-H Club and Caldwell County in the public speaking contest.

To add to the fun, youth can dress up to fit their topic. A speaker talking about cooking wears an apron or a chef’s hat. Someone interested in the history of the wild west wears a cowboy hat and so on.

Another way youth learn to share with others is written communication. Some kids love storytelling. Others may not like to sit for long periods of time, and writing is uninteresting to them. Parents can help these youth by creating an environment where distractions are minimized during their writing time.

One simple written communication skill youth can practice are thank you notes. Notes do not have to be lengthy, and they help youth express themselves and exercise their written communication skills in a meaningful way. Younger youth may also enjoy decorating a card to use in the process.

Michigan State University’s Extension and 4-H program offers tips on how to write a great thank you note. Notes can be delivered via email or the postal service.

Michigan State University’s Extension and 4-H program offers tips on how to write a great thank you note.

Michigan State University’s Extension and 4-H program offers tips on how to write a great thank you note.

First, a greeting such as “Dear Mrs. Rodriguez,” can be used to open. Next, young people should state the specific reason why they are thanking the recipient and why the person is appreciated.

If the note is about a gift that was received, it is a good idea to tell how the gift will be used or why it was important.

Then, share other details and end with a repeat, “Thank you.”

A good closing word is “sincerely,” which should be followed by the name of the sender in print or as a signature.

After practicing a few times, writing a thank you note will be a skill youth can use for a lifetime.

4-H provides training and opportunities for young people to improve their communication skills in a safe environment. This includes public speaking, written communication and conversation skills used when meeting new people and making friends.

Caldwell County 4-H is a member agency of United Way, and it enthusiastically supports its partnerships. Learn more about Caldwell County 4-H and its programs for youth ages 5-18 online at caldwell.ces.ncsu.edu.

Sarah Kocher is the 4-H Youth Development Agent with Caldwell County Cooperative Extension. The Caldwell County Cooperative Extension Center, 120 Hospital Ave. NE #1 in Lenoir, provides access to resources of N.C. State University and N.C. A&T State University through educational programs and publications.