It has been suggested that technology has increased global communication, but has it? Is it that communication has improved, or just that contact points have increased? For Gen Z students, this may mean learning how to better manage their communication needs because while they are comfortable texting and sending emails, these forms of contact may not be effective with faculty or when seeking employment after graduation.
When students interact with their current faculty, it is with someone older than their peer group, so if students are not careful, it can lead to communication challenges. A good starting point is to be more formal at the start of a relationship and wait for cues from the faculty, once they become more comfortable with the student. These techniques can then be carried forward into their career.
Students should also develop a strategy to ask more effective questions; having a professional style will empower students to connect, not simply contact. For example, instead of rushing an email, a student should take a breath and make sure it is well thought out before sending it. One step students should be advised to take with emails: Start with a professional heading and tone to ensure no typos or mischaracterized headings slip through. From there, messages should be clear and concise. All communication should be approached with respect.
In his book Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, John Powell said communication exists on a scale from cliché to transparency. As we move from cliché toward transparency, there is an increase in the level of trust and a decrease in the number of people we communicate with at that level. At the lowest level, it can be communication or contact with virtually anyone. At the highest levels, though, there are few with whom we share. There is also an increased risk and increased sharing as communication becomes more transparent. Most professional interactions should lie somewhere between cliché and transparency.
The bottom line for students is to understand how to best communicate with professionals to express needs. Communicate personally as much as possible, not through third-party entities such as parents, school counseling centers, athletics, and other interfaces. The goal should be to communicate through the recipients’ preferred communication methods.
This all may sound like more work than sending a text or email, but the relationships that develop over time will be far more rewarding. Ultimately, contact is certainly easier, but communication requires connections with people in a personal manner.
Peter J. Titlebaum, Ed.D., is a professor in the School of Education and Health Sciences: Health and Sport Science at the University of Dayton.
John K. Linderman, Ph.D., FACSM, is a professor in the School of Education and Health Sciences: Health and Sport Science and director of Base Sciences at the University of Dayton.