I attended a great workshop along with a group of local high school students and interested adults to learn about the obstacles and problems associated with communication between youths and adults. The results were very revealing with education, awareness, and respect being the three most important elements to improving this important dynamic. There appears to be a missing bridge connecting generations which seems to gradually widen as we mature. Many people’s frustrations can be eased if we keep in mind some basic human kindness. Etiquette is based on creating a form of communication which is subtle, non-threatening, and helpful.

One of the most basic mistakes I make in communicating with someone is making assumptions, which are based solely on my own thoughts. None of us are mind readers, and to assume that others think or react to actions around us the same way we do can create unexpected miscommunications and misunderstandings. Therefore, it is important to be clear about what we are saying.

When we address one another, we should look the other person in the eye and smile, being sincere and kind while delivering our message. Intention is an unspoken form of communication which is quickly discerned and often misunderstood. For people, and often youths with low self-esteem, almost any statement can be perceived as threatening.

There is no age where respect is not appropriate. From birth to death we must all show respect to one another. We need one another in order to raise a happy family, to run a successful business, or in fact to form a healthy society.

That is why I find it interesting to hear what young people have to say. What is on their minds is important, not only to me but more significantly, to them. Understanding and being compassionate to youth and their feelings is one of the most underutilized forms of communication. Paying attention to what others are saying raises our awareness of how they are feeling. This attention also demonstrates that we, in fact, do care what they are saying. While communicating, this is, of course, a two way street.

As we move through life, it is important to remember that including young people in as many activities as possible forms an educational model which prepares them for adulthood. Learning the rules of sports, the etiquette of the dining table, the protocol of conducting business and so many other necessary life skills are all started at an early age.

If we see ourselves failing to communicate in a kindly way, we could think of being more civil, more kind, and more compassionate. If we are mindful of respecting all members of society and valuing all opinions, young and old, we will undoubtedly grease the wheels for a happier and healthier society.