93% of communication is nonverbal. We learn:
7% by words
38% by voice
55% by nonverbal actions
If only 7% of our kids’ learning depends on words, the remaining 93% is very significant. This is an area often ignored. Our children are strongly impacted by the gestures, tone of voice, movement and facial expression of teachers and others.
Credibility depends on the perception of a person as competent, trustworthy, sincere and dynamic. These characteristics are primarily conveyed through nonverbal aspects. If there is a conflict between verbal and nonverbal messages, we believe the nonverbal and reject the words. We trust actions rather than words. So do our kids.
Others read our nonverbal actions. What we say and what we project may be two different messages. If we are bored or angry, our actions convey those thoughts. People pick up any negativity. We must be aware of how we feel, and we must realize that our actions broadcast those feelings. If we want a different relationship, we must convey a different nonverbal message. We can assist our youth by being aware of our nonverbal communication and helping them be aware of theirs.
Communication includes reading, writing, listening and speaking. Learning to read should be a priority. Studies show that students who aren’t capable of reading by the end of the third grade may never catch up. We must help all kids achieve the early goal of reading. The repercussions are alarming. According to the Department of Justice, there is a significant link between crime and illiteracy. According to begintoread.com, “One child in four grows up not knowing how to read.”
Experts claim we need to add to our definition of literacy. Peter Drucker, a business writer and visionary, claimed that:
Literacy is reading, writing, and arithmetic. As well as a basic understanding of science and technology, acquaintance with foreign languages, and knowledge of how to be an effective member of an organization.
Our needs have changed. We are a global village, no longer an isolated country. Today, without some business training, high school graduates have a smaller chance of being hired in positions of advancement and promise. Liz Schorr in Common Purpose: Strengthening Families and Neighborhoods to Rebuild America cites a study that shows six essential skills that companies look for in beginning employees.
These include the ability to:
Read at the 9th grade level
Work in groups
Half of our nation’s high school graduates do not have these abilities. If we want our youth to succeed and aim for a better life, these are necessary skills for them to learn.
This material is revised from Chapter 7 of my book, Don’t Fall Off the Bicycle: Balancing Chaos and Order in our Lives (2002).