It goes without saying that good communication skills are a valuable asset no matter what your lot in life. In fact, the career advising world is encouraging people to identify and improve their transferable skills - abilities that can be applied or "transferred" to varied work environments. Effective communication is one of those transferable skills. Good communication skills are some of the most sought after abilities in today's work world; and we as parents can help our children develop these skills.
A lot of communication, such as speaking and writing, is taught in the classroom; however, I have never seen a school assignment aimed at improving conversation. I am guessing that most teachers want to discourage talking! The following game or exercise can help your child develop the gift of gab. It is based on the idea that a good conversation is like the simple game of catch. The game is only fun if the players throw the ball back and forth; just like conversation. No one likes to talk to someone who consistently "keeps the ball" and never engages the other player. When someone initiates a conversation with a question, good conversationalists will either, 1) ask a related question back; or 2) give an answer that includes some self-disclosure to encourage more conversation.Here is an example of the game in action:
Player One: Throws a ball (any kind of ball) while asking a question. "How's school going?"
Player Two: Answers the question, but before throwing the ball back, he or she must ask another related question or self-disclose. "Good!" What was high school like for you?" (related question) or "Good, I really like my speech class, but I'm struggling with math." (self-disclosure)
The goal is to eventually have the conversation take on a life of its own.
As your children get better at keeping the ball going, begin teaching them the idea of being proactive and initiating conversation in social settings. Before attending a social event, begin to consider the people who will attend, and then brainstorm possible conversation topics. We often did this in the car when we were on our way to a family gathering, especially if it had been a long time since we had seen the relatives. As the grandparents aged, it became fore difficult for our children to have engaging conversations with them, so we especially took time to brainstorm interesting topics that we could initiate with them. For example: "Grandma, do you remember the first time you drove a car?" or "Grandpa, how much money did you earn at your first job?"
A word of caution: This very simple, yet effective, game was not always greeted with enthusiasm, but our children have confessed that it was instrumental in helping them become good conversationalists - a valuable transferable skill.