For Teens

Building Blocks of Communication

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We all communicate, but what does that mean, exactly? Let’s break the idea down →

communication is a natural human process (something we start to do without trying, from the moment we’re born)
communication is also a skill (something we can learn)
communication means we create, send, receive, and figure out messages


Some words to know that can help you understand communication better:(Cook and Friend, 2013, p.31):

  • Communicator = person who sends and receives messages

→ sender: creates and sends messages

→ receiver: decides what the messages mean

  • Message = spoken, written, or unspoken information
  • Feedback = verbal or nonverbal responses to messages that tell others what we thought of their message


→ can be internal (our own thoughts and feelings) or external (responses from other people)

  • Channel = different ways we can send and receive messages

→ examples: phone, letter, email, conversation, presentation

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  • Noise = anything that gets in the way of the  sending or receiving of messages

→ can be actual noise or anything else that might confuse or distract us, such as feeling sick, or not speaking the same language

  • Environment = physical space, surroundings, or situation that can affect how people understand behavior of others

Interpersonal Communication


“Inter” means between and “personal” refers to people. So “interpersonal communication” is communication that happens between two or more people . We are constantly communicating! (Cook and Friend, 2013, p.33).

Some ideas to think about (Cook and Friend, 2013, pgs. 36-37):

Interpersonal Communication is Unavoidable →

People are always communicating, whether or not they want to. People communicate with words, facial expressions, gestures, or even through their silences. Remember that your expressions or the way you stand can reveal more than your words! (This could by why your mom always knows that you snacked before dinner, even if you say you didn’t!)


Irreversible →

Once we have sent a message, it cannot be taken back. You can say you are sorry, but you cannot “unsend” the message. Almost everyone says things that they don’t mean – if you make this mistake, just apologize and move on. Read over any emails or text messages that you send, and try to think before you speak, to help avoid these negative feelings.


Information and Feelings →

Most messages have two layers – the actual information and the feeling behind it. Sometimes the information is more important, and sometimes the feeling is more important. If you are trying to talk to your family or teachers, and you feel upset, try to focus on the information, rather than the feeling, so that they can help you.


Who you are affects the way you communicate →

Think about:

  • your age
  • if you are a boy or a girl
  • where you live
  • what your cultural background is
  • what your religion is
  • what you like to do (sports, tv shows, music)


All of these details can change the way you communicate! This fact is true for everybody, even adults. Your math teacher may see the world differently than your English teacher. If your mom is an engineer, her viewpoint will be different from the teachers.

So think about how you see the world, and how other people might see it differently, when you are sending, receiving, and figuring out messages.

You can get better at communication →

With practice, you can send your messages clearly, and learn to truly listen so that you can easily receive the messages of others.


Try these tips →

  • try out different kinds of communication (email, texting, letters, conversations)
  • change your communication to match where you are (you should speak more formally in a classroom than you would with your friends)
  • notice how you feel, and if your “feeling layer” is taking over the communication too much
  • communicate with kindness – treat people as individuals, try not to judge others, and think of other people’s feelings too
  • remember – less can be more!  Don’t say more than you need to.
  • be an active listener (look at the person who is speaking, turn to face him or her, and nod or smile as he or she talks)


Nonverbal Communication

People communicate with their faces and bodies, as well as with their words.


Body Language

  • body movement
  • posture (standing up straight or being slumped)
  • facial expression
  • gestures
  • eye contact


Vocal Cues

  • voice tone (happy, sad, angry, etc.)
  • pitch (high or low)
  • volume (high or low)
  • rhythm (fast or slow)
  • pacing
  • use of silence


Spatial Relations

  • physical distance between or among communicators


Nonverbal communication can help you get your message across, or it can make it harder for other people to understand what you mean. Notice your nonverbal cues, and how other people react to you.

(Cook and Friend, 2013, pgs. 59-61).


Interpersonal Problem Solving

Part of communication is handling problems. You might run into problems when you communicate with friends, your family, or your teachers. Whatever problems come up, it’s important to know that YOU can help solve them (2013, p.109).


Two Ways to Problem-Solve:

  • Reactive → the problem has already happened, and now you need to deal with it
  • Proactive → you think a problem might happen, and so you start to make a plan for how to handle that problem before it happens (2013, p.111)

Steps to Interpersonal Problem-Solving  (Cook and Friend, 2013, p.116)

  1. Break the Problem Down

→ Who is involved? Should anyone else (like an adult) be involved?

→ Does this group have the time and anything else it needs to tackle the problem?

→ What might happen if you don’t deal with the problem?

     2) Identify the Problem

→ describe the situation – writing this description down can be helpful

     3) Think of Solutions

→ use brainstorming or brainwriting think of ideas for handling the difficulty

brainstorming = call out or write down any ideas that come to mind, without any judgement

brainwriting = each person writes three or four ideas down, then the group exchanges lists and adds to each other’s lists; switching continues until the group can’t think of any new ideas (Cook and Friend, 2013, pgs. 122-124)

→ write all ideas down, even if they don’t seem helpful

    4) Will these solutions really work?

→ toss out solutions that are inappropriate or too hard to make happen

→ consider advantages and disadvantages of each possibility

→ choose more than one solution to try

→ create specific plans to try out the best advantageous solutions

    5) Choose the solution(s)

→ make a final choice of solutions as a group

    6) Think About the Outcomes

→ decide if the solution is working

→ if solution is working, keep doing it if you need to, or stop if the problem is solved

→ if solution isn’t working, decide why and re-start the problem-solving process at the “Think of Solutions” step


If you are having a problem at school, your teachers and family will want to help you. Your ideas for solutions matter too, even if your choices at school haven’t always been the best.




A team is made up of individuals who work together to reach a shared goal (Cook and Friend, 2013, p.138).

You might experience teamwork in the following ways:

  • home
  • school
  • sports
  • clubs
  • activities

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Teams that work well together have the same goal, and don’t mind sharing responsibilities. You might be part of a team while you do classwork, but you might also be part of a team that includes your family and your teachers. This type of team exists to help you do your best at school. Just like with problem-solving, your ideas and opinions matter to this team, so try to share them as much as possible (2013, p.139).

What’s good about teams?

  • a team usually gets more accomplished in a shorter amount of time than when people work alone
  • better results
  • sharing ideas
  • combining talents
  • sense of togetherness (2013, p.144)


Community Resources → websites that will help you connect with other people:  


Just for teens:

General Resources:

In Delaware County and Haverford Township:



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