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Growing Leaders Blog

on Leading the Next Generation


Four Reasons Why You Must Learn to Communicate

One of my greatest concerns for the teachers, coaches, employers and youth pastors we work with across the world is simply this:

We think we are communicating with our young people…but we aren’t.

In nationwide surveys, results continue to show that teachers assume they are successful at transmitting information in the classroom, while the students disagree—they remain clueless.(Both the teacher and the students were referring to the same classroom). The same goes for employers. Managers think they have communicated the essentials to their teams, but team members languish in vague uncertainty. They remain fuzzy not focused. Somewhere between the transmitter and the receiver there is a breakdown.

Let me offer you four huge reasons why we must learn to communicate effectively with the next generation of young people:

1. Ambiguity is greater now than at any time in modern history.

So many different values and schools of thought—pluralism is everywhere. While this in itself is not bad, it’s created a greater degree of ambiguity among our youth. There is seldom one right answer, there are often so many options, there is such disagreement as to what is right and wrong—it often paralyzes kids from making decisions. They seldom move in one direction. We must help them learn to cut through these various consumer messages and help them gain some direction.

2. Young people are often unwilling to work at comprehension or application.

Let’s face it. We teach students who have increasingly grown up with everything at their fingertips. Convenience is king. So is speed. They can be passive and still get what they want, since it can be ordered or posted on a screen. They have not been taught to work hard at understanding; we will not let them fail. Communicators must be better because our audience doesn’t want to work at listening or receiving information.

3. Information is fully accessible to kids at any age.

You know this well. Kids are on the Internet at four years old – or earlier! Information is ubiquitous. Even if it is incorrect or damaging, kids assume it’s right if it’s on the Internet. This, however, makes good communication so valuable. Since there are so many messages, fewer get through the “filters” of students’ minds and hearts. It’s the law of supply and demand. When there is a great supply, demand goes down. When there is a wealth of information there is a poverty of attention. Communicators must work at delivering messages that are different and make it through the filter.

4. Young people have been conditioned to be consumers.

One hundred years ago, teachers and employers put the onus on the young person to get what they needed in life. It was up to them—it was their responsibility—to learn. Today, it’s the other way around. Kids are not contributors as adolescents, they are consumers. They are the “customer” in college and it’s up to the professor to “help them succeed.”  The onus is now on the messenger to push their message through to the listener. We can either get mad or get busy. Adults must learn to communicate in this new reality.

If you’re like me—you can get frustrated at these realities. This is why Growing Leaders took the time and effort to create a new “Habitudes” resource called: Habitudes For Communicators. It’s a study guide to be discussed on how to communicate with the next generation. The book is full of images that represent timeless principles on how to effectively deliver messages in this new world. The book will be release January 18th. To order a copy today, just CLICK HERE.


  1. Noah Lomax on January 12, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Working with primarily teens and college students, the second reason (in my opinion), is one of the greatest challenges. It also greatly correlates to number four. As we communicate, I think we also have a responsibility to counter the culture and teach them to seek communication. True communication is a two-way street. While we bear a great deal of the responsibility, the old adage is still accurate: You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. Great post!

    • David Bartosik on January 20, 2012 at 6:17 pm

      It seems that is what he is responding to.  Tim recognizes this reality but he also sees the laziness of communicators sticking to the same old styles that got old horses to water.  The young studs and stallions are enamored with many other distractions besides the one watering hole.  Now they have fresh hay every second, pretty female budweiser horses, and miles and miles of territory to explore…..we need to capture the attention of these horses and lead them to water in different ways.

      Our communication styles need to adapt and change with the times, but the goal remains the same…..lead them to water and show how increbile the water is that they will want to drink!

  2. Robbie Mackenzie on January 13, 2012 at 9:45 am

    Great Stuff!  These are huge. 

  3. Matt on January 15, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    As a seventeen year-old, I agree with you, Dr. Elmore. I’m doing a lot right now inside and outside of high school. I think of your GIGO principle when I’m perusing the internet for information. I do slow down and think very often too. I must search for information that is coming from a safe and reliable source. Even as a teenager, I get frustrated at multitasking too much and working with peers in school that don’t communicate as well as I would like them too. Communication is extremely important.

    I look forward to your new Habitudes book. Each one is feeding my hunger for leadership knowledge, and I’ve learned so much. They’re on my list of books to read. =)

    • Tim Elmore on January 16, 2012 at 3:51 pm


      Thanks for taking the time to comment and share your experience. It sounds like you are on the right track at an early age. Keep it up! Hope you enjoy the new Habitudes book!

  4. Blaise Nicoletti on January 15, 2012 at 6:02 pm

    Poor selection of words for the Title of this article.  Sure, it makes sense to communicate as effectively as you can if you truly want to be heard AND understood.  Tim is concerned with the iY generation and I am too but I see the solution to this problem not as a matter of communicating more effectively but enforcing “consequences” for improper behavior, bad test scores, and sub-par results.  I believe it is all about immaturity and insecurity; not an inability on my part to communicate.  I see more 30, 40 and 50 year old people who level of security and maturity match that of  a typical 14 year old.  There is a great lack of discipline in most people’s lives and no where does this show up clearer than looking at the average American’s level of reading comprehension . . . well and their waste line too.  Adolescent adults raising adolescents results in more adolescent adults.   THIS is the problem.
    For several generations now kids are wanting less and less to read and study their school curriculum and to focus on things/ideas that do not help them mature.  They get older and become adolescent adults who prefer to purchase things like Xbox’s and plasma televisions but will also purchase things like insurance policies only because the landlord or mortgage company requires it.  Then these adolescent adults don’t have the discipline nor wisdom to read their insurance policy so that they can formulate a proper proactive stance to compliment their insurance policy.  From personal experience I have seen an adolescent adult leave $3,000 dollars on their kitchen table and after it was stolen made the assumption that all $3,000 would be given to him by the insurance company that insured his home.  Most all insurance policies have a limit when it comes to cash theft of $200.  Or another incident where the individual thought the insurance company would cover the damage from using a fire pit in the middle of their living room.  It is idiotic -or- better said “irresponsible behavior” that parents, teachers, principles, business owners, judges and other persons in the place of authority in our community put up with from these adolescent types and who don’t choose to deliver the proper consequences all because they (those in charge) will “feel bad.” 
    This is NOT a communication problem Tim.  This is a maturity issue and a leadership development problem.

    • Tim Elmore on January 16, 2012 at 3:49 pm

      Thanks for taking time to respond to my post. I couldn’t agree with you more. We are witnessing “artificial maturity” in many students today. They appear mature based on the information they possess but often lack the real-world experience to make this knowledge useful. Our leadership should be producing authentic maturity in students. If not, I believe that we, as leaders, have to look in the mirror and ask ourselves the hard questions before writing off this generation. We must be willing to change our methods, including adapting our communication style, in order to lead these students well.

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Four Reasons Why You Must Learn to Communicate