Where do you start when it comes to tuning in to people around you and achieving meaningful things?
I think it starts with being comfortable in who I am, staying true to that, and let it flow naturally. It is a maturing process that I think we all go through overtime.
I keep that close to heart while coaching youth in public speaking, communication, and leadership. Can I hold space for the teenagers where they feel comfortable exploring their thoughts? Can I create an outlet for them to express themselves naturally, staying true to their heart?
How fascinating this journey has been!
What happens when youth opens up to this? What do you get from that space?
They bring an incredible range of colorful ideas; their creativity knows no bounds. The energy they bring is infectious.
Can they develop confidence in public speaking?
Yes, I think youth develops confidence probably faster than adults. There is a refreshing lightness to try new things and the spirit of just doing it without overthinking that can be a drag.
I think everyone wants to feel validated. When we have a channel to express without having to pretend, it connects with something that is such core to our being. It brings out the fire, passion, and synergy. And when it comes to youth, they give it all without any inhibitions.
We have several teenagers that completed their speech goals, leadership goals and got their awards from Toastmasters International. The manuals provide them with clear goals and the path to achieve those goals. When they see a clear plan and support system to grow themselves, they show incredible drive to make things happen.
Can 12-17-year-olds think critically, organize their thoughts, and articulate meaningfully?
I think the answer is resounding yes, too; they absorb it all like a sponge. The teenagers have the drive to make things happen when supported by a consistent structure. Critical thinking is such an integral part of a kid in middle school or high school. It’s only natural for them to apply those skills to communication once they understand it.
Can they give meaningful, constructive feedback to each other?
Yes. We have kids as young as 12 years old, express reaction and opinion on speeches in a constructive way. We introduce the idea of giving feedback over several sessions, showing how to provide feedback. They absorb it all and give feedback without being judgmental or harsh. Lightness in the air helps here as well. Speakers can receive feedback in the spirit of help, in the sense of a valuable support system. In time, it becomes a profoundly enriching experience where they can speak and give feedback to each other in self-sustaining ways.
The process of giving and receiving feedback in a very nurturing climate helps youth cultivate self-awareness about their thinking process. It creates opportunities for them to see it from others’ perspectives. It develops empathy and perspective-taking over time.
Can teenagers understand the emotional component of communication?
Yes, self-awareness and empathy play a key role here. Within the workshop format we develop, it encourages you to be aware of not only your own emotions but also others. That becomes an empowering tool to improve emotional intelligence (EQ) over time.
The support system for public speaking encourages youth not only to face the anxiety but also to learn how to channel it for impact. In a way, you are breaking your barriers in the process of being more comfortable in who you are naturally. That unlocks potential for nurturing friendships and positive conversations. It equips them to navigate peer pressure more effectively and develop healthy teamwork.
What an opportunity for me to be in front of abundant creativity and boundless positive energy of youth.
It is a magical, priceless experience that draws me back to it over and over.