Today’s students communicate arguably more than any prior generation. Between texting, Instagram, and Snapchat, your student council members seldom have a quiet moment free from outside contact. But does that mean they’ve mastered the art of communication? Not necessarily.
According to U.S. News & World Report’s College Admissions Playbook blog: “A common complaint among employers is that young people do not know how to effectively carry on a conversation and are unable to do things like ask questions, listen actively, and maintain eye contact.”
At the NASC National Conference this past summer, we asked students to identify which leadership skill they rely on most throughout the year: communication, decision making, time management, problem solving, stress management, or conflict resolution. The overwhelming majority chose communication skills. This certainly makes sense for student council members who are constantly interacting with you, their fellow members, the student body, and the community.
As important as communicating effectively is for them now, it will only become more vital as they enter college or a career. As their adviser, you can help sharpen their communication skills to help them excel both in student council and their future endeavors.
Here are a few tips to pass along to get them communicating like pros:
- Actively listen. Effective two-way communication relies on people actually listening to what the other says—not just waiting until someone’s done talking to make a point. Active listening builds relationships, improves understanding, and shows respect. To fully listen to a speaker, free yourself from distractions like text messages, avoid interrupting, set aside judgment, and provide feedback.
- Pay attention to body language. We say more than we know through our facial expressions, gestures, movement, eye contact, posture, and breathing. When speaking or listening, make sure your nonverbal cues match what you’re trying to convey. For example, crossing your arms may suggest that you’re closed off and not receptive to an idea. Also remember that people may have different standards for body language and personal space depending on their culture, age, religion, or gender.
- Cut back on filler words. We all pepper our speech with the occasional “um,” “uh,” or “like.” However, cutting back on how often we use these filler words can greatly improve our clarity, persuasion, and confidence. Speakers will appear much more knowledgeable and prepared when they don’t use superfluous words—and audiences will be more receptive to what they have to say.
- Be clear and concise. No matter if you’re speaking to a crowd, having a personal conversation, or writing an email, it’s important to be specific in your language. If you’re asking people to take an action, ensure you clearly communicate what it is and how it should be done. Also make sure to respect others’ time and get your point across quickly.
Try passing along these tips to your council members as you promote activities and events to the school body and community. You can also try some role-playing exercises during your council meetings to further sharpen their skills.
For more tips and resources, communicate with NASSP on social media—see below—or visit www.nasc.us.