How to Teach Teens Communication Skills (2022)

three teenagers standing outside the school smiling and talking using effective communication skills

This blog post is the first in a series of lesson plans for teaching teens communication skills. 

Background

During my career spanning over two decades, I developed curriculum and lesson plans for interpersonal communication and conflict management skills for post-secondary students, teachers, and high school students. In addition, I held the designation of Chartered Mediator and practiced mediation for more than 14 years. This blog post series about teaching teens communication skills helps teach high school students about healthy communication and provides different ways to introduce communication activities into lessons about any topic. 

Effective Communication

Effective communication skills are essential to function in our daily lives. Assertive communication is the cornerstone of any healthy relationship, whether with a friend, family member, or romantic partner. But for many people, learning how to communicate effectively is challenging. Good communication is a cornerstone of solid relationships, and teaching high school students how to communicate now effectively will lay the foundation for healthy relationships throughout their lives. Communication skills are essential for their success in and out of school.

Teaching Teens Communication Skills

Teens can learn effective communication skills that will last a lifetime. It’s no secret that communication skills are essential to everyday success. But many people don’t realize that these skills can be taught – and learned at any age. With the help of a few key strategies, teachers can give their high school students the tools they need to communicate effectively in any situation. From handling conflict resolution to simply being able to express themselves better, teaching teens communication skills is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Encourage Openness and Honesty

The first step in effective communication is creating an environment where everyone feels safe sharing their thoughts and feelings. Next, learn how to shape your teen’s communication habits by setting practical expectations, encouraging a positive mindset, and using strategies every parent can use.

Communication Tips for Teaching Teens Communication Skills

Good communication is essential for strong relationships. Teens can learn effective communication skills that will last a lifetime. It’s no secret that communication skills are necessary for everyday success, but many people don’t realize that high school teachers can teach these skills – as they are learned at any age. With the help of a few key strategies, teachers can give their high school students the tools they need to communicate effectively in any situation. From handling conflict resolution to simply being able to express themselves better, teaching teens communication skills is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Here are three tips to encourage students to initiate effective communication:

  • Encourage teens to express their thoughts and feelings openly and honestly. Encouraging the open and honest expression of their feelings will help them build trust with others. 
  • Teach teens how to listen actively by giving the person their full attention and trying to understand what they’re saying. Active listening is the ability and skill to listen to another person’s point of view or talk without interrupting, becoming defensive, and judging or criticizing. It is an essential skill that builds trust, respect, and relationships.
  • Help them practice assertiveness by teaching them how to respectfully express their needs, wants, and opinions without putting other people down or becoming angry.

It’s no secret that communication skills are essential to everyday success. But many people don’t realize that these skills can be taught – and learned at any age. With the help of a few key strategies, teachers can give their high school students the tools they need to communicate effectively in any situation. From handling conflict resolution to simply being able to express themselves better, teaching teens communication skills is a gift that will last a lifetime.

Lesson Plans

In this lesson, students will explore the different types of communication processes that we engage in daily. They will also review and discuss the human needs that effective communication satisfies. By the end of this lesson, students should have a better understanding of how communication works and its importance in our lives.

Teaching Strategy

Teachers can use the lesson content provided here in a variety of ways. For example, creating discussions about each topic area helps students develop a deeper understanding of the meaning of communication in their lives. One way to generate discussion about the topic areas is to have students create posters or journals based on their learning. Another way is using education technology tools like Padlet to help arrange the information from students. 

Introduction to Effective Communication

This introductory lesson about effective communication in interpersonal relationships begins with an examination of the characteristics of two communication models:

  • linear 
  • transactional

This lesson will provide students with the foundations for competent and effective communication. Through various activities, students will have the opportunity to practice and master the essential communication skills needed to succeed in all areas of their lives.

Bridge-In Activity

Teachers provide students with an opportunity to experience the importance of effective communication. This activity is designed to set the tone of the lesson and generate discussion about linear and transactional communication.

Real World Scenario

Picture yourself taking a road trip to __________ with three friends. You are driving, and there is one friend in the passenger seat and two in the back seat.
Although unrealistic, let’s say, for the sake of this reflection, you cannot see because you are blindfolded. Pretty scary thought, no? You are driving on a busy downtown street in _______, which also happens to be a one-way street, and you rely on your passengers to give you directions. And your three passengers are all eager to provide you with directions—at the same time—on how to get to your destination!
How well will the four of you be communicating with each other? Will you hear the directions clearly to get to your destination unharmed? Think about it…ineffective communication can feel and look like driving a car blindfolded in downtown _______ on one-way streets.

Strategy to Teach Teens Communication Skills

It is essential to keep in mind that the communication activities in this lesson are designed to help students understand the different types of communication models and characteristics that are present in their interpersonal relationships. By doing this, they will better understand how to communicate effectively with others.

This blog post series will give students the tools they need to improve their communication skills. By the end, they will be able to see how far they have come and what areas they still need to work on. The subject matter will also give them a better understanding of themselves and how their beliefs and attitudes affect their relationships with others.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this, students will be able to:

  1. Define interpersonal communication.
  2. Describe the linear process of communication.
  3. Explain the transactional process of communication.
  4. List and describe Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
  5. Define what is meant by computer-mediated communication.

How We Communicate

When two people communicate, they exchange information. The exchange of information can be done in many ways, but most often, it is shared through face-to-face interactions. To effectively communicate, both parties must consider each other as unique individuals and use minimal stereotypes. Information exchange is key to successful communication.

Qualitative Communication

When individuals communicate with one another, they do so either quantitatively or qualitatively. In a quantitative sense, communication is based on numbers and statistics. Qualitative communication, however, is based on understanding the other person as an individual. This type of communication is characterized by its lack of use of stereotypes and one-size-fits-all rules; instead, it relies on a high level of exchange of information between parties.

Types of Communication

Communication is critical to our everyday lives. It allows us to interact with others, share our thoughts and feelings, and build relationships. Of course, there are different types of communication, but in general, it can be divided into two categories: verbal and nonverbal.

Verbal Communication

Verbal communication involves using words to connect with others. This type of communication can be further divided into two kinds: spoken and written. Spoken communication is saying words out loud, while written communication is communicating through writing.

Nonverbal Communication

There are many ways to communicate without using words. Body language, facial expressions, and gestures can all convey messages. How we communicate without words says a lot about who we are and how we feel. Our posture, facial expressions, gestures, and how we use space convey messages that others can interpret in different ways. For example, smiling when you meet someone usually signifies being friendly, open, and happy to see them.

Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication plays a vital role in exchanging information and ideas. Therefore, it is crucial to be competent in this area to communicate with others effectively. Communication competence involves understanding the basics of how it works. Students can attain this understanding by studying communication components and how they work together. Examples of the fundamental elements include having a clear understanding of the two communication processes: linear and transactional.

Two Views of Interpersonal Communication

Communication has long been thought of as something we “do” to others. This belief is because the information shared in communication is often seen as one-way action, a linear process with one person providing information to another. 

Linear Communication

The linear view of interpersonal communication provided a foundation for the concepts and terms used to define interpersonal communication. In turn, it helped researchers explore interpersonal communication’s nature further. As a result, the assumptions about communication flowing only in one direction were challenged, and a new model of communication, the transactional communication model, emerged.

Transactional Communication

Recent research has shown that communication is much more than a one-way action. It is not linear but includes verbal and non-verbal messages sent from the messenger to the receiver. This new understanding of communication can help us to better communicate with others in our everyday lives.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (Maslow, 1943) is a theory that explains what motivates people. It suggests five main types of human needs: physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. These needs dictate our behavior differently, becoming more important to us as we move up the hierarchy.

Regarding interpersonal communication, effective communication is essential to attain love and to belong – two basic needs identified in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. By learning how to communicate effectively, we can improve our relationships and sense of belongingness.

The following video describes Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

Computer-Mediated Communication

As technology advances, so does the way we communicate with one another. Computer-mediated communication (CMC) is a prime example of how new technological trends can greatly influence interpersonal communication. CMC, defined as “the use of computer-based tools for human interaction,” has paved the way for this trend.

Communicating Online

Social media, online gaming, and text messaging have changed the way students interact with each other and develop social skills. Today, teaching teens how to be effective communicators is more critical than ever. Although the essential communication skills needed are still the same, their use has changed in recent years.

As people become more comfortable with communicating online, they find that it provides many opportunities to connect with others without ever having to meet in person. In addition, sharing online provides convenience and flexibility, allowing people to engage in interpersonal communication without ever having to be face-to-face.

Pitfalls of Online Communication

Although online communication has many advantages, it lacks the non-verbal cues essential to face-to-face interaction. These cues provide important information about a person’s emotions and intentions; without them, communication is often less effective. In addition, when communicating online, it is vital to be aware that there is the potential for misunderstandings and misconceptions to lead to conflict between parties. To avoid this, clear and concise messaging is essential.

Lesson Activities

The following lesson activities help students understand the different communication models and characteristics of their interpersonal relationships.

Activity 1: Examining Messages

Instructions: Record and examine two examples of communication you initiated. One example will involve a friend or acquaintance and the second example will involve a stranger (e.g. a store clerk).

Friend or Acquaintance

  1. Describe the situation.
  2. What are the communication needs (physical, identity, social) and goals?
  3. Is this an example of linear or transactional communication?
  4. What did you not say in this situation? Why?
  5. How can you become a better communicator?

Stranger

  1. Describe the situation.
  2. What are the communication needs (physical, identity, social) and goals?
  3. Is this an example of linear or transactional communication?
  4. What did you not say in this situation? Why?
  5. How can you become a better communicator?

Summary

This first lesson explores the theoretical concepts related to the types of communication processes we engage in and the human needs that communication satisfies.

Included in these concepts were the two communication models, linear and transactional, that explain how communication is transmitted and received between messengers and receivers. These concepts allow students to understand how interpersonal relationships and communication skills develop. 

This series of blog posts and lessons will give students a benchmark to compare their communication skills against. In addition, the content is designed to help students understand their beliefs and attitudes towards interpersonal relationships and communication.

In the next lesson, we will explore the concept of “self” in interpersonal relationships and communication. Students will engage in the process of self-reflection while using theoretical concepts and methods of application relevant to their situations.

References

Adler, R. B., Rolls, J. A., & Proctor, R. F. (2020). LOOK : looking out, looking in. Nelson Education.

Green. (2019). Classics in the History of Psychology — A. H. Maslow (1943) A Theory of Human Motivation. Yorku.ca. https://psychclassics.yorku.ca/Maslow/motivation.htm

TACT (Teens and Conflict Together): A Facilitator’s Guide for Empowering Youth to Engage in Creative Problem Solving: Petryshyn, MA., Chartered Mediator, Suzanne: 9781451516593: Books – Amazon.ca. (2022). Amazon.ca.

TACT (Teens and Conflict Together)

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