Art of communication

Ann Swanson

I wrote down a quote that I liked from a television broadcast. The quote was, “Talking is still the best form of communication.”

How will today’s youth engage in the art of communication? They are constantly on their cell phones and other devices. They communicate with texts that often have abbreviations and/or many misspellings. They do not talk to each other – even when the person is in the same room

I have been at events where the people around me are on their phones even when they have been asked to shut them off. The little light gives them away. It always amazes me that anything can be so important that they cannot miss even a minute of communication time.

My cousin sent me a list of things that young people of today will not be able to do. It was very enlightening. I read the list then began to add things of my own. So here goes.

Young people of today might not be able to dial a phone – a landline. Years ago, I recall being in the fair office where we had a rotary phone. People would come in and just look at it. They had no idea how to use it. Most of the time someone had to show them how to dial. Of course, today we no longer have rotary phones, but the concept is the same.

Getting to know the older generation is the same. How can you get to know someone if you do not talk to them? When I was still teaching school, I made arrangements with the director at the Rouse Home to bring residents to the school for a day of fun. The children prepared an art project to do with them. They also brought fixings for punch and some cookies.

When the day was finished the young people were thrilled. They discovered how social the older generation can be. Some of those folks had not been in an elementary school since they attended one. All in all, it was a wonderful day with the generations relating well.

I am sure that many young people are unable to plan a healthy meal. Oh, they know all the buzzwords such as gluten-free and almond milk, but do they really understand the concept of eating from all of the food groups. When I taught kindergarten, I instituted a healthy snack program. The first week of school I supplied healthy snacks. We talked about the food groups and where these foods fit in. The children learned well about healthy eating – faster than their parents did. I wonder how many of those students remember raising their hand for the food group their food for the day fit into.

Today meals are not the sit-down type. If meals are prepared at home they are often eaten around an island or in front of the television. At any rate, there is little conversation. Conversation used to be around our table. The children shared about their day while their dad and I shared about ours. We talked about starting a cookie factory once. We worked out just how we would go about it. I know my children remember that conversation even today.

Do young people ever balance a checkbook? I am not sure about this. I know that my first roommate had no idea about balancing her checkbook. She relied on me to do it for her even though I tried to teach her. I hope she found someone else to do it when I moved out!

When a button falls off of an outfit what do young people do? This extends to my generation. I know many people my age who never replace a button much less stitch up a rip. When clothing loses a button, it is thrown away. I got a lot of things from my neighbor’s trash when I was young. I knew how to sew on a button.

Another teacher and I ran a 4-H group at school. We taught the youngsters how to mend and how to sew on a button. They felt good when they succeeded. We whip-stitched seams and hems, too.

We also covered the skill of hammering in a nail. Even the girls were thrilled to acquire this skill. I know for a fact that skill came in handy around my house. I put up my own curtain rods as well as fixed towel racks that did not want to stay connected.

I recall teaching a woman to make a phone call and take a message. She knew how to make a call but she neglected to get a message. I tried to model the skill for her. I took elaborate notes to try to get her to do the same. I showed her my messages, but she never did master that.

Sometimes communication is non-verbal. You notice your surroundings and respond to them. You notice what is needed and do it. This often takes place in the workplace. People have to learn to anticipate what others may need. That is being a competent employee.

How many young people know how to read a map these days? They depend on their phones to tell them how to get someplace. Sometimes that works just fine, other times you end up going the long way around to get someplace. If you can read a map you can find the shortest way to get there.

When young people babysit it involves another type of communication. Talking to children is not the same as relating to adults. Often you must be creative. Children look at things differently.

I used to teach babysitting skills to sixth graders. It was all about entertaining the children, keeping them safe, and seeing that they followed the rules. On our field trip, the sixth graders entertained their students on the bus so that the trip would not seem so long. At our destination, they had to oversee the student getting food in a cafeteria. It was their job to pick nutritious things to eat and to be sure the child got enough to eat. The ice cream machine was always a favorite and that was fine after the entrée was consumed. These are some of the skills that we all need. Do not fail to teach them to the next generation.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at