Learning to Use Your Words

When I hear the term “use your words,” I immediately get flashbacks from working my first job out of college. I was the lead teacher in a private daycare. I started in a classroom of six freshly turned two year olds. I loved every moment of working with those terrible twos because I am particularly good at establishing boundaries, which is what toddlers crave. After a few months of getting myself established, management decided that I needed more of a challenge and switched me into a classroom with ten 3.5 – 4 year olds. If you have ever paid any attention to the sudden burst of language that happens between these ages, then you are missing out on a neurological wonder. In my classroom of toddlers, there wasn’t much back-sass because most of them were still only babbling. However, my older three year old classroom could not only back-sass, but they were also learning to form “cliques” and gang up on each other. This is where the phrase “use your words” conjures up memories.

For all my preparation, patience, and prowess, I went into the daycare everyday and faced what was sure to be a day of boogers, tears, and fights. Obviously, language bursts in the first few years of life but it takes almost a life time to learn how to use it correctly. This can mean in very basic forms such as students gaining the ability to ask the teacher for juice when they’re thirsty or it can be more complex like learning to talk through an argument with a friend. Another important aspect to learn is learning when not to use your words as well. A three year old can be stubborn but at this age he/she is also learning about empathy and compassion. Sometimes it’s hard not to tell someone when their hair looks stupid, or they’re being poopy-heads. So how do you explain these concepts to children when all they want to do is say every word that comes to mind all the time? Learning to talk is amazing to see in children, and to see what they do with the skills once acquired it something to be proud of. You had a hand in teaching them to use their words. Combined with the gift of language learning itself, sometimes knowing when to use your words is equally as important as knowing how to use them.

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How do you define communication?

I am no gambler but I’d bet that this is a question that you’ve never thought to ask yourself.

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Double or nothing? I’d bet it is more difficult for you to answer than you’d might expect. Don’t worry, you’re not being graded, and like most things in life, the answer actually varies. So let’s start with the basics….

What do you think communication means? Hearing the word gives me a mental image of a group of friends enclosed in a small room with the buzzing noise of several conversations taking place all at the same time. According to The Oxford Dictionary, the literal definition of the word ‘communication’ is the exchanging of information and/or news. The word “communication” derives from the Latin verbcommunicare‘ meaning to share. Share how? Here is where it gets a little tricky because communication may take linguistic or nonlinguistic forms (meaning it may or may not involve a language) and can be executed through various modes.

If you think of the word itself as a tree, the first few branches would be verbal communication and nonverbal communication. In his book, Body Language: 7 Easy Lessons to Master the Silent Language, James Borg reports that human communication consists of 93 percent body language and cues and only 7 percent verbal. [1] I find this particularly amazing. We receive more information during a conversation through what a person is doing rather than through what the person is actually saying. If you’re one of the people that believe talk is cheap, well, it just got cheaper.

Nonverbal communication covers combinations of body language and para-linguistic cues. Para-linguistic cues are a fancy way of referring to gasps and sighs. Other examples of nonverbal communication can include first impressions, posture, movement and body positioning, clothing, gestures, and proximity. By themselves, these individual factors seem insignificant. However, in the combinations of these factors, we interpret information that may intentionally or unintentionally be given. Verbal communication may by influenced by spoken word, or by a person’s individual tone, pitch, and other acoustic properties.

Communication is a complex process that can take hours or mere seconds, and can have a profound impact on someone, or not. Communication can also have meaning and content, or not. How are you ever supposed to truly know what is or is not communication? Well, that all can depend on who you talk to.