Top tips for communication

Help your young person develop active listening skills and communication know-how

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The activity below will take 20 to 30 minutes to complete and can be carried out with your young person, or you can ask them to work through the worksheets as an independent activity. They use films to introduce some different types of communication, like active listening, whilst encouraging young people to reflect on the importance of being able to communicate with different people in different ways.

Step one: Active listening

Start by explaining that one of the most important skills for life and work is communication; whether that’s listening, presenting, verbal, non-verbal, or digital.

To help your young person understand how this is a skill that can help them succeed in the workplace, watch the following film.

Ask your young person what they think is meant by ‘active listening’ (being able to take in information and recall it). Active listening requires giving 100% focus, maintaining eye contact, checking understanding by asking clarifying questions and using non-verbal cues such as nods or gestures. All these behaviours show the person talking that you’re engaged with what they’re saying and taking it in.

To put active listening into practice, read out the list of words below to your young person without taking much of a gap between them.

Blue shoes, red ball, green rabbit, blue beetle, green unicorn, orange key, yellow socks, pink paper, green sphere, black plate

How many can they remember?

Now read the words again, but after each one, ask your young person to repeat it back to you. Once you have read them all, ask them how many they can recall now. Can they think of other ways that the information would be easier to recall? E.g. writing things down, asking you to repeat some or speak more slowly.  

Explain that communication is a two-way process – a clear style of speaking/presenting can make the listening/understanding much easier for the other person.

Step two: Being an effective communicator

Watch the ‘Sophie takes the communication challenge’ film below, which shows how someone working on a market stall uses her communication skills to deal with different customers.

Either watching with you, or using the worksheet independently, ask your young person to identify the following for each of Sophie’s customers:

  • The different forms of communication she uses with them e.g. non-verbal, like smiling and pointing, active listening, like nodding, or asking questions
  • The effect her ways of communicating (including listening and speaking) has on each customer
  • How her different methods of communication helped her to be more effective in her job

Next, ask them to consider what the consequences might have been if Sophie had communicated less effectively?

E.g. she might have rushed them and come across as rude, not listened to them and got their order wrong, or refused to serve them because they were being difficult. The consequences could be that they might have been disappointed, decided not to buy a coffee, or told a friend not to go to her stall which may have had a long term impact on the business.

To illustrate this further, try and give them an example from a personal or professional context, where you’ve had to adapt your communication style in order to make sure what you’re saying is understood by the other person as you intend them too.

The film shows a situation where the people can communicate face to face. Consider with your young person how you might have to adjust your communication skills (listening and speaking) to a situation where you are communicating either on the phone, by email or over video chat. Example answers might be using more verbal cues to indicate active listening on a phone call, practising a greeting and maintaining eye contact for a video call. They can record their answers on the worksheet.

Which types of communication might become more important in these different environments? What else could you do to demonstrate that you are able to communicate effectively anyway, for example if you were speaking to a teacher, potential employer or colleague using these methods? E.g. speaking clearly and slowly, asking questions to make sure you understand, taking the call in a quiet place, carefully proofreading written messages.

For more on communication, your young person can explore more here, or get some practice at another transferable skill, problem solving, in this activity.