Stop staring at your phones – your social skills depend on it

Latest Posts  •  June 15, 2015

Have you ever been around a group of kids, and instead of looking at each other or talking, they’re staring at their phones?

It’s as if they don’t know how to communicate anymore. Texting has become their primary form of communication.

recent study by the Pew Research Center confirms this observation. According to the study, 24 percent of teenagers are online “almost constantly,” and texting has replaced actual face-to-face interactions amongst 12 to 17-year-olds.

Young people are now “officially” socializing with a mobile screen more often than they have real human contact.

Something tells me there’s a problem. If children aren’t getting together anymore because they’re locked to their mobile devices, they must be missing out on the many benefits and qualities only real one-on-one conversations can provide.

Talking to someone face-to-face teaches us about eye contact. It trains us to pick up on each other’s emotional cues. We learn to read facial expressions, tone of voice and posture. Understanding what other people think becomes less about their words and more about their raised eyebrows, quizzical looks or affirming nods.

Like learning any skill, this requires practice, but that’s something many of us – especially the young – aren’t getting anymore. As a result, more and more people are losing the ability to read nonverbal communication and learn other important social skills. They become “soft skill” deficient.

“Soft skill” deficiency is a term Stedman Graham, the educator and author also known as Oprah’s man, uses to describe this development.

In his article “Preparing for the 21st Century: Soft Skills Matter,” he explains that soft skills are “practices that were once in the background of all our lives.” He says, “team building, eye contact, analysis of body language and conflict resolution were constantly demanded from us as we moved through our days.” In times where many day-to-day negotiations are being replaced by silent texting and emailing, we’re beginning to notice the consequences.

Since these skills can’t be developed through “silent communication,” we have to make time for more real person-to-person contact.

Soft skills include confidence, flexibility, honesty, and integrity.

They also include the ability to see things from another person’s perspective, critical thinking, and common sense.

While these skills play a huge role in determining our chances for success, traditional education does very little to promote them.

Schools still value the academic skills students acquire. It’s employers however who are starting to look for other skills. They cite problem solving, creative thinking, the ability to compromise, negotiate and persuade, and the ability to communicate and network as the most sought-after skills for their employees.

Having been in business for a long time, I can attest to that. Seeing these skill reflected in my employee’s attitude and work ethics is as (if not more) important to me than other academic qualifications.

The good news is there are ways to help kids develop (and adults to maintain) these skills.

The best way is to provide opportunities for practice. Through experience with personal feedback, group interactions, decision-making and working together towards common goals – everybody can learn to improve their soft skills.

At Modern Music School we’ve created a band lesson program to provide these opportunities.

Band lessons increase student’s interaction with each other face to face. Students can learn to communicate effectively, to collaborate and to make meaningful connections.

I’ve previously written about How band lessons make your child happier, more cooperative and well-adjusted. The article addresses the exact same soft skills and demonstrates how Modern Music School students improve their motivation, creativity, fairness, team play, self expression and confidence through band lessons.

Let’s not forget – the desire for honest communication and authentic connection is hardwired into all of us. We need to feel heard and understood. To be known, respected and valued is how we become fully human.

To express that humanity, we have to be able to look into each other’s eyes.

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2020-04-27T14:38:36+00:00June 15th, 2015|

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