When Duncan was a toddler, and I’d successfully breastfed two babies, I was asked to train as a breastfeeding counsellor.  I wondered what counselling would be like, and this is what I imagined…

 A mother phones me. She tells me her problem. I dip into my wealth of breastfeeding information and soon the problem is fixed. The mother thanks me profusely. I put the phone down, feeling very satisfied. One problem solved. Easy!

Now there are quite a few potential breastfeeding problems.  I was aware I’d need to gain a lot of breastfeeding knowledge. But once I knew the ins and outs of how breastfeeding works and what could possibly go wrong, I thought I’d be all prepared to take my place in the world as a counsellor.

Therefore I had a big surprise when I found out that learning lots of breastfeeding facts is only part of the training of a counsellor.  All the knowledge in the world is useless if a counsellor doesn’t impart it to a mother in such a way that the mother feels understood and accepted and in control of her situation. In other words, a counsellor has to have good communication skills.

It wasn’t long before I realised my communications skills were very poor indeed. Not only were they inadequate for counselling, they were also not up to scratch as far as my personal relationships went. No wonder I got myself into lots of arguments and misunderstandings! I began to wonder… Why aren’t we all taught communication skills as we are growing up?

It seems to me that communication skills are equally as important as numeracy and literacy skills. They are an essential skill. Think of all the people we will communicate with over a lifetime. If we were better at talking and listening to each other, if we could show each other more empathy, and if we thought more about our use of language when trying to help or correct each other, wouldn’t we all be a lot happier? Our families would be more peaceful. In fact the whole world would be a better place.

My communication skills improved enormously after I completed my breastfeeding training. (If they hadn’t, I don’t suppose anyone would have let me go anywhere near a mother in need.)  But I know they could still be a whole lot better. (It is so easy to slip back into old habits.) So I have been thinking about working on my skills. I also want to teach my children how to communicate effectively. I wonder if anyone else is interested in this topic. If so, we could talk communication skills here on my blog.

This post isn't really about breastfeeding counselling, but rather about how we relate to our spouses, our children, our friends, those who need our help, those who disagree with us, those we must correct… This could be a perfect topic for Lent.

I did that counselling course years ago, so I have probably forgotten many of the details. But that doesn’t matter as I don’t want to write as an expert. This is what I have in mind… I could start us off by sharing my experiences and then hopefully, you’ll stop by and share your own ideas. It might be very interesting. And if we put all our ideas into practice, something exciting may happen.

I thought we could discuss communication skills over a series of posts. A series? I’ve never done one of these before. I guess it could be a very short series if no one responds!

So will you join me? Are you willing to stop and share your own ideas? Shall we begin a communications conversation? Or should I write about something else?


Apparently, these sheep are communicating. I wonder what they're saying to each other.

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  1. I might see if I think I want to do it.

    Oops, I mean, that sounds like quite a delightful idea. I would feel most privileged and honoured to join you, dear sister.:)

    The thoughts are flowing around already!

    God bless, Sue:-)

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    1. Vicky,

      So glad to hear your thoughts are flowing. I'm going to need lots of help on this topic so I'm looking forward to you sharing your ideas.

      God bless!

      Delete
  2. Communications skills are very important indeed. I bang my head into my own limitations every day. When I write, what I want to say, is normally progressing logically from the beginning to the end without too many shortcust or wanderings. But when I speak it's quite another matter. My children do not understand half of what I'm saying, or maby they're not listening. I leave out necessary (to other) informatipon, because I feel it's implyed in what I already said. People can think, can't they?

    I'll join your course in communication skills. but I'd like to add that oral and verbal communication are two different sets of skills in my opinion. Do you agree?

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    1. Uglemor,

      I much prefer communicating by written word than by speaking. There's much more time to think, and I can change what I've said... if I don't press 'send' too quickly! Yes, thinking and speaking simultaneously can be very difficult under some conditions. I guess we just need to practise. Having some models or steps to follow can help too.

      Leaving out necessary things? I was talking about this with Sophie the other day. She'd written a blog post and she'd left out lots of little details which seemed unimportant to her. We knew what she meant but her readers wouldn't have. It can help to stop and consider things from other people's point of views. They aren't inside our heads and can't read our thoughts. But I'm with you... shouldn't our children know what we mean by now? And I definitely agree that they don't listen, but then again I don't either half the time.

      Written and spoken communications have their own set of skills, but I think they do overlap. We shall discuss this!

      I am so glad you want to discuss this topic further. Thank you!

      God bless!

      Delete
  3. I just started going through this topic with my son, who is seven today :) Teaching all the social skills we take for granted as adults makes my head spin! I'd love to see some posts on communication in any form :)

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    1. Angela,

      Happy Birthday to your son!

      I am so pleased you are going to join in with this topic. Please share all you are doing with your son. I would really appreciate your ideas and help. I am actually hoping my children will start adult life with better social skills than I did. The older ones don't seem to be doing too badly. Yes, there seems to be so much ground that needs covering!

      God bless.

      Delete
    2. Sue - Right now we're learning about listening (interrupting), how to join in a conversation, how to change topics without confusion, and other basic social customs that are second-nature to adults, but confusing to kids.

      We're reading a book called How to Make and Keep Friends that's been really helpful :)

      -A.

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    3. Angela,

      I think even adults could improve the skills you mentioned! We all love interrupting each other.

      I had a look at the book you mentioned. It looks interesting. Some kids seem to have more trouble learning communication skills than others. I guess a lot depends on personality, and extra effort has to be made by quiet, reserved or introverted people.

      I'm also wondering about family situation. Do you have to make a special effort to make sure your son has lots of people to talk to and practise his skills? Even in a big family, children don't always get the chance to speak. It depends if everyone takes the time to include the quieter or younger members.

      Delete
    4. Sue -

      I've always let the actual skill practicing take its course, though in the past I HAVE pushed for him to socialize more for fear of loneliness. That stopped this year when I decided to try and trust that when he needs the contact, he'll tell me.

      -A.

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    5. Angela,

      If a child is looking for social contact and friendship, we might need to make an effort to get together with other families. But some kids seem to be self sufficient and like their own company. I've found it hard to know what to do with my more reserved child. I tried pushing him into social situations but I stopped doing that when he didn't respond well. I just let him be himself. I hope it all works out!

      Delete
  4. One of my favorite classes in school was interpersonal communication. It was all so fascinating to learn about the ins and outs of communicating. Especially, because it seems like it should come so naturally- after all we start communicating as soon as we are born. But, it IS an art and one that I am not always so gifted in. :)

    I would love to take part in a series of blog posts on communication. Though I suspect, I would learn much more from it, than I could ever contribute to it. Keep me posted on all the details as you work them out, I am anxious to check out all the wisdom others have to share.

    God Bless, Kari

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    1. Kari,

      You had interpersonal communication classes at school? Wow! That sounds like a really useful class. We had nothing like that at my schools.

      Maybe a lot of people think they are good at communicating just because they can talk and 'listen'. I agree communicating effectively is an art, it doesn't come naturally... unless a child is brought up in a home where parents are good communicators. Good role models would make so much difference. That's one reason I want to improve my skills. I want to be a good example for my family, as well as improve our own interpersonal relationships.

      Kari, please share all your ideas. I don't know if any of us are experts, but I'm thinking if we all put our heads together and mull this topic over, we will work things out. It should be interesting!

      I look forward to sharing more with you in the next post.

      God bless!

      Delete
  5. Hi Sue...I think being a good listener is extremely important to being a good communicator. It is a skill which I am trying to learn, as I usually am busy rushing ahead thinking of what my response will be, even before the other person has finished speaking. Also, I've even been known to interrupt...horrors! That is a habit I'm working hard to break.

    With communicating through writing, I've found it's so necessary to be very precise in your choice of words..like in e-mails, blog comments, Facebook, etc. You may know what you mean, but if the other person doesn't know you very well, they could easily interpret you incorrectly. I usually preview any blog comments, and often find myself fine-tuning a word or two.

    One thing I hate is when you are speaking to someone, and they are looking all around to see what else they are missing! I once had a friend who did that all the time. She really made me realize how important it is to truly focus on the person you are speaking with.

    And then of course, taking over the comment box with all of your opinions isn't very polite...,but I do it anyway! :) Love to you Sue!

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    1. Patricia,

      I saw your reply to my comment on your blog. Thank you! I am sorry to hear your virus still hasn't cleared up, but your holiday... that was good news! It's frustrating when long comments get lost before they are posted. Thank you for trying. I am sure it would have been a beautiful comment and I feel sad I didn't get to read it.

      You have brought up so many interesting points! I am itching to discuss all of them. Effective and active listening... Most of us would much rather talk than listen. And then you too have mentioned the difficulties in communicating using the written word.

      I've been thinking about the connection between communicating and charity. We must always strive to communicate with kindness. St Francis de Sales comes to mind. It seems to me, he was an expert at doing this. Nancy will tell me if I am right! I'm reading a book about kindness at the moment, and I think the ideas in that book will be relevant too.

      Patricia, I am always delighted when you take over my comments box. I love it when you add your special touch to my blog posts. I am glad you're going to 'do it anyway'! You may have noticed I do this in your comments box all the time!

      Love to you too!

      Delete
  6. Love this! Need this! I know good communication starts with good listening; that much I know for sure, but the knowing and the doing of it can be miles apart for me. Oh, I WANT to listen, really really listen, but sometimes (I confess) I have to reign in my brain. I also find writing easier than speaking when I'm trying to communicate something TO another. In speaking, I tend to go all over the map. With writing, a kind of "internal editor" kicks in and reminds me to stay on track. Now if I could just get that editor to work on what comes out of my mouth!

    Looking FORWARD to this series - thank you, Sue!

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    1. Nancy,

      I think we all feel we could be better listeners! And maybe most of us prefer to communicate via the written word rather than by speech! Isn't it good blogging involves written words? We'd never say anything if we had to think and speak at the same time.

      I often wonder what would happen if I met up with any of my blogging friends. You'd all see the first draft version of Sue and not the final edited version. Would that be a problem? Maybe once we all got over our initial shyness, the words would start spilling from our mouths and we'd never stop. That's the wonderful thing about having a real conversation with a friend: sometimes it is truly delightful "to go all over the map".

      "good communication starts with good listening". I was thinking that as well, Nancy, then I thought about empathy. If we don't feel understood and accepted, we probably won't start communicating. So I hope no one minds if we start there next time. I'm afraid this 'series' isn't going to be very organised. Just a chat between friends. Is that okay?

      See you next time.

      God bless!

      Delete
    2. Nancy,

      I've been thinking... You're right. Listening skills first!

      Delete
  7. Sue
    We feel very strongly about communication skills in our home, we rate it high, up there with as an essential skill to leave home with. Thus we have deliberately fostered this in a conscious way, more than happy to chat about it here.

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    1. Erin,

      I am so glad you also feel communications skills are essential. And I'm pleased you want to share your ideas here. Thank you! I am sure you'll be able to pass on lots of wisdom due to your experience with your own children. I can't wait to hear more of what you've been doing!

      God bless!

      Delete
  8. Sue, you probably don't qualify for this (I'll bet you have a gazillion followers and you may have gotten this award before), but I nominated you, from the Breadbox Letters, for a "Liebster" blog award. You can check that out at http://thebreadboxletters.blogspot.com/2013/02/id-like-to-thank-academy.html

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    1. Nancy,

      Thank you so much for nominating me for this award. You have made my day!

      There is no danger I have too many followers to qualify for this award. I'd faint if I had 200 followers! I am only a little blogger. To prove it, I shall put a gadget on my blog, then everyone will know how small I really am. I'll stick it somewhere out of sight down the end of a side bar. Remember lots of my followers are family, and some people have followed me twice by mistake!

      Thank you so much. God bless!

      Delete
  9. Sue, a great trick i do to see if someone is listening to me or not is . . . talking in the same tone, mention random things that you would NEVER EVER mention in a normal conversation like . . ."oh, and those elephants you ordered from africa are going to take another month to arrive. then i suppose the lions and zebras would have to have different rooms. . ." and so forth!
    eventually, the persons' eyes will widen when they realise that you're talking about something ompletely different then they think you were!!!
    lol
    love Sararose xox

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    1. Sararose,

      I've never tried that trick! I bet the person you were talking to listened properly after that.

      I've been caught out a few times when I've stopped listening and then been asked a question by the speaker. I've had to admit I missed a fair bit of the conversation, and don't know what she's talking about. Would she remind repeating it for me. It is very humbling when that happens.

      Thank you for your comment.

      God bless!

      Delete
  10. Wow, what a fantastic idea, to write a series about this topic! I agree with your point that communications skills should be taught alongside numeracy and literacy. How little we know to truly converse in this world, both listening and speaking well, succinctly saying what we want to say and having the courtesy to truly listen to the other in return. It's a skill my husband is good at and I am very poor at! Favouriting your blog so I can follow this (why didn't I favourite it before??)

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  11. How strange, I just wrote a comment and then when I signed in to post it, it disappeared.. what I was saying was, thank you for bringing up this extremely important topic to discuss such vital skills. How right you are, that we do not learn these things well and they should be taught along with literacy and numeracy skills! To truly listen and engage with someone in conversation is actually an art form, I feel. I look forward to seeing more of these topics. God Bless you!

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    1. Jacinta,

      Sometimes strange things happen when comments are posted. As you can see, both your comments arrived! It doesn't always happen like that though so thank you for trying again. I know how frustrating it can be having to start a comment all over again.

      When we witness a truly skilled communicator, I think we realise just how much we need to improve our own skills. I would love to meet your husband. Maybe one day!

      I have observed certain of our friends who are also very good at conversing. They come across as very caring people because they take the time to listen, and they get others talking. I would love all my children to have such skills. They really are life skills.

      Thank you so much for putting my blog in your favourites! I hope you will stop another time and join in with the conversation. I will have to think about the next communicating skills posts. I decided to spread them between other posts, to keep my posts varied.

      Love to you and your beautiful family!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for your response Sue. I will definitely make a plan to visit you and your family next time we come over (although unfortunately that probably won't be for a while- even a short flight over the ditch is very expensive!) I completely agree about the friends who are good at listening... there is a reason they are the people that everyone turns to when they just need an ear to listen! I am sure with your passion for imparting these skills to your children, they will learn them. Blessings and love to you and your family too.

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    3. Jacinta,

      You'd come to visit us? That would be so nice! I totally understand about the expense of coming home for a visit. I haven't seen Felicity since her wedding a year and a half ago. It costs far too much for her to pop over to this side of the country for a few days. These things have to be planned and saved for carefully.

      We all need a friend who will listen. They are a real blessing.

      May God bless you and your family!

      Delete

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