When it comes to texting, today's teens and young adults are experts. But when it comes to talking, not so much. It's no secret that many of them do not know how to hold meaningful conversations and, generally speaking, they don't seem to like talking.
The information revolution has changed all of our lives, but especially theirs. They practically grew up with phones in their hand, internet has always existed for them and they probably have no idea what dial-up connection is. This familiarity to all things electronics has created a void. A void in communication and human connection.
Despite the promises of social media to help connect people, teens worry that technology is coming between individuals. In fact, data show that nearly seven in 10 teens (68%) agree that devices keep them from having real conversations, and a third (32%) says devices sometimes separate them from other people (www.barna.com).
As your older brother in Christ, here are a few suggestions to help you get better and more comfortable with communicating with words, regardless of whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or an extrovert.
1. Find a subject you're passionate about
Everyone has something they're passionate about. History, art, cooking, hunting, business, ministry, classic cars, traveling, the list goes on. Find yours. For example, I have a colleague who doesn't talk much and keeps to himself but if you mention classic Jeeps, he will be sure to talk! If you don't know what you're passionate about, ask the people around you, like your friends and family. Ask them what they have observed about you - your interests, how you spend your time, what you talk about often, and so on. Discovering and having a topic that you are passionate about gives you a conversation starter. Keep this 'handy' anytime you are in the middle of a conversation that doesn't seem to be going anywhere, or when you simply want to share more about you with someone.
2. Read the Bible (and other good books)
Reading helps your vocabulary and expands the way you think and observe the world around you. Research shows that regular reading improves brain connectivity, increases your vocabulary and comprehension, empowers you to empathize with other people, aids in sleep readiness, reduces stress, lowers blood pressure and heart rate, and more (healthline.com). The Bible is the best place to start. It is filled with history, wisdom, adventure stories, instruction for life, love & relationships, the wonderful works of God, and much more. Above all, read it to find Jesus Christ and salvation. Read it it to grow. Read it to gain wisdom. And read it to learn how to speak.
"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." Col.4:6
3. Associate with people that are older & wiser than you
Hang out with wise people and you will become wise. This is my paraphrased version of Proverbs 13:20. The idea is, you will not grow in the way you communicate if you are only associating with people that are in the same stage of life as you and at the same level when it comes to their speaking skills. These 'associates' or friends can be older single people, married couples, teachers, other family members, mentors, or co-workers. Of course, make sure they are someone you respect and can trust. Learn from them. Ask questions. Simply hang out and get to know how they got through life when they were your age. You'll find it helpful learning from their experiences and you'll gain some insight on how to communicate with people along the way.
4. Study people
Throughout Scripture, we find men and women who observe the world around them. Solomon, for example, in the book of Proverbs, observes lazy people, quick-tempered people, wise people, foolish people, scornful people, simple people, and so on. To get better at communicating, observe how the people around you communicate. Even if they communicate poorly, you'll have an example of what not to do. Here are two things you can do: 1) Make mental (or written) notes of the different ways the people in your 'inner circle' communicate. A few things to observe: the tone of their voice, how they get ideas across, and whether or not they communicate with heart & purpose; 2) Search for preachers, leaders or public speakers that you can listen to and learn from, in-person or online. Youtube, TED Talks, Instagram, you know where to find them (after all, you're the internet search guru's). When I was in my teens, I would put in a CD or a cassette tape (you can Google what that is) and would listen for hours to preachers such as Richard Wurmbrand.
5. Ask questions & listen
In a word, be genuinely interested in other people. From my own experience in working with teens for nearly 20 years, if there is one reason as to the lack of their communication skills, I would say it's simply due to the fact that they are in their own little world. They don't have much interest in the hopes, dreams, fears, projects, hobbies, ministry, or life of other people. They're trying to 'get by', be it with school, work, relationships, and everyone and everything else seems to be secondary. This will hurt you in the long run.
“When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” Ernest Hemingway
Slow down. Don't be self-centered. The world doesn't revolve around you. At 12 years old, Jesus knew how to carry a conversation and ask questions with the best of them (teachers in the temple). With God's help, you can too.
This is a short and simple start to getting better at talking with people. Keep in mind, if you're not focused on getting better, you won't. Just because you age in number doesn't mean you'll age in wisdom and communication. So, do something. Start today.
Keep the fire burning,
with Danny & Daniela Kovacs
No family is an island. Join us as we share candid discussions, Biblical advice & resources to help keep God at the center of your faith, family and career.