Communication is an essential life skill. Effective and healthy communication plays a huge role in success and happiness in life. We communicate in all sorts of ways — body language, facial expression, tone of voice, physical action, and even thoughts — whether we’re aware of it or not. Everything we do sends a message about who we are. And others are often making decisions and judgments about us based upon how they perceive us. Therefore, it’s vital to bring awareness to the messages that you’re communicating about yourself.
Your generation is unique, having grown up with technology and social media unlike anything available to previous generations. This has changed the way people communicate, particularly teens. For many people, face-to-face communication has become secondary to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and texting. But as people become more connected to smartphones and the Internet, their ability to connect in person can be compromised, and it may be more difficult to develop effective communication skills. Technology is remarkable, but it doesn’t replace the need for effective communication skills. In fact, successful business and personal relationships depend on connecting with people.
This book provides communication skills and guidance that will enable you to thrive in your life and in your relationships. The skills include active listening, self-disclosure, expressing your needs, recognizing your hidden agendas, clarification, assertive communication, making new connections, sexual communication, family communication, and interviewing skills.
Detailed explanations and exercises will help you determine which skills you need to develop or polish in order to increase your ability to communicate clearly and effectively in all aspects of your life. To maximize the benefits, we recommend that you complete the exercises presented in the book. You’ll need a journal or notebook for this purpose — or you can use a document on your computer. Choose whatever format you’re most comfortable with.
This book is written so that you can work through the chapters in any order you wish. For example, you might decide to start with chapter 8 if you’re facing a situation that requires you to communicate about sex. However, we strongly encourage you to read chapter 1 first, since it introduces skills that are referred to in other chapters. Of course, you can also read the chapters in order, from beginning to end. In addition, you may find that you’re already more skilled in some areas than others. However, even if you think you’re a great listener, we urge you to go ahead and read chapter 1, How to Really Listen, because we’ve found that it’s easy to fall into some of the traps associated with listening.
Before we begin, we’d like to share some information about who wrote this book. Matt McKay and Patrick Fanning wrote a communication skills book for adults, Messages, that continues to be a great resource. In fact, Michelle Skeen found it extremely helpful when writing two of her previous books. This inspired her to write a similar book for teens — something she especially cares about because she has a teenage daughter, Kelly (along with two older sons). But Michelle and Kelly agreed that teens don’t need more adults in their lives giving them advice and sometimes talking down to them or providing examples that are relevant to adults but don’t resonate with younger people. So Kelly became a coauthor, adding a teen’s voice and perspective. Kelly provided all of the examples and used her own experiences to gear the book more toward teens.
So, now that you have a sense of what this book is about and who we are, let’s get started!