What a pity I’m too old to join the Brownies or the Guides! They’ve just revamped their programme of badges and activities – the biggest overhaul in the organisation’s history. And one of the 800 new badges is for ‘speaking out’. How fabulous that they’ve made communication one of their themes.
If this badge were to become compulsory for every girl (and boy), along with eating broccoli, I’d be out of a job. So much of the training I do these days is with adults who’ve somehow along the way missed out on this very important life skill.
These are professional men and women who struggle to speak out in meetings; who fear small talk and networking; who are intimidated by more dominant colleagues; who can’t do themselves justice in interviews.
The good news, of course, is that it’s possible to acquire the necessary skills and confidence at any stage in our career or life. It’s just easier to embed the habits early.
So, as this long hot summer continues, during which we might be spending time with young people, maybe we can help them stay out of my training room in later life. We can:
- Listen to them!
- Avoid interrupting them. Give them space to finish their sentence
- Encourage them to engage with adults (shop assistants, waiters, dentists, bus drivers). This includes eye contact
- Create environments where conversation can naturally flow (eg around the dinner table)
- Model good communication habits (eg dealing with challenges in a measured and reasonable manner; being comfortable apologising)
- Let technology sometimes be out of sight
Let’s us ‘be prepared’ to empower the next generation to speak out. And I’ll find some other work to do...