What are communication classes?

Published on 02.25.2021

children at school communication classes

Communication classes — what are they?

You may have noticed that “communication classes” are popping up at major universities and high schools around the country. This blog post will help you understand a bit about what these classes teach and how they define communication. It will also conclude with some thoughts on exactly how these classes help students grow.

Communication. What is it?

Obviously, “communication” is a word with a handful of meanings and definitions. Let’s start with this simple definition (sometimes called the Shannon–Weaver model of communication):

Communication is the act of a sender transmitting a message to a receiver.

toddler age girl getting spoken to by her mother
“Time for bed, sweetie!” is an example of a message we might send our children.

This checks out, right? Imagine a parent telling their child to go to bed. The parent is the sender, the child is the receiver, and the message is probably something along the lines of “Time for bed, sweetie!”

We can map a number of communication examples onto this simple definition. However, the more situations we map, the more we start to see two important caveats emerge. These limitations to our original definition of communication are what challenge our ability to communicate effectively. Communication classes, like those offered by Winning Feathers, teach students how to navigate these limitations.

Caveat #1: communication isn’t always automatic

Sometimes we operate on autopilot so much that we think everything we do is natural. This applies to communication too. For example, it’s fair to assume that the parent telling their child to go to bed doesn’t have to think about the words they want to say, they just say them.

In situations like these, autopilot works just fine. Yet, what happens when something throws the autopilot off course? What if, after the parent told their child to go to bed, the child screams and runs away? The parent would need to decide the best way to communicate with their child that they have to go to bed, or decide what a suitable punishment might be. While we can operate on autopilot most of the time without any issues, sometimes we need manual control to effectively navigate tricky situations. 

Taking control of automatic communication is a skill — and it’s this skill that communication classes teach students. I’ll say a bit more about that at the end of the post, but there’s another limitation of our simple definition for communication I want to address before I do.

Caveat #2: communication flows both ways
blank old directional road metal2
Communication is always a two-way street, or a process.

The thing to remember is that communication is a process. It’s not a one way street. When a parent tells a child it’s time for bed, the child almost always responds back in some way. This way might be verbal (“Mom, I don’t want to go to bed!”) or non-verbal (an eye roll, or a stare). 

Sending a message always invites a response. This response is also a message — a message back to the original sender, meaning communication is more of a cyclical process than our original definition. This means that learning how to (1) properly read or listen to the responses of others and (2) effectively formulate our own responses are crucial — and another skill taught in communication classes.

So, how do communication classes help people?

Okay, so we’ve got a pretty good starting definition for communication, and we’ve looked at some caveats that a communication class might help students work on. Yet, how does this help students? What skills does it teach them?

Helping students know when to shift in and out of automatic communication is crucial for achieving one’s goals. Public speaking is a clear example of this. It’s an example of a situation where you really need to think about what message you want to send (remember, a key part of our communication definition) and how you want to send it. Communication classes work with students to review tested strategies and develop good practices for speaking with purpose.

Speaking intentionally isn’t always just for the stage, though. Let’s return to our example of a child being told it’s bedtime. The child’s automatic reaction to this might be one of unbridled anger, few words, and general distress. This shows a reaction from a child that lacks proper communication skills. 

A child who has worked with a communication coach or teacher — who has been taught the benefit of switching out of automatic communication — is more likely to express their wants/needs clearly. Through practice, they’ll learn that communicating with purpose helps them achieve their goals. They might still have to go to bed, but good behavior goes a long way toward extending bedtime.

A child who has taken a communication class is also more likely to understand that communication is a process. They’ve learned that communication is a sharing of ideas, not just sending a message from one person to another. They know that listening is just as important as speaking. They’ve also practiced this understanding through speaking activities with other students and their coach or teacher. This means they’re more likely to try and understand the situation from the parent’s point of view.

These are just two examples of how communication classes can help students learn about themselves and the world around them. To learn more about these classes, visit winningfeathers.com and ask about their free trial option.

What are communication classes?

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