Effective Communication: The Counterweight to All the Yelling

Jul 08, 2020 | Posted by the IEW Blog Team


Are you familiar with NCFCA? Since 2001 the National Christian Forensics and Communications Association (NCFCA) has equipped and empowered students to apply and communicate their worldview with skill and clarity. In podcast Episode 227 Andrew Pudewa and Julie Walker invited Amy Joy Tofte, NCFCA’s Director of Education, into the studio to share more about the organization and discuss the upcoming summit. This free online event will be held July 27‒31, and Andrew Pudewa is one of the invited speakers. We encourage you to register for this free event by visiting this page. In the meantime we invite you to enjoy this guest blog post, written by Kim Cromer, Executive Director of NCFCA:

I find myself spending less and less time on social and mainstream media platforms. Frustration, anger, hatred, disrespect. Emotions are boiling over in every direction we turn. The deeply personal nature of fundamental subjects like constitutional freedom, the role of government, systemic racism, and even the very value of life causes people to want to engage. We inherently understand that discussing ideas is the vehicle by which we can influence others and bring about change. Sadly though, the message often devolves into a war of words that polarizes, demeans, and divides. This type of argumentation rarely, if ever, leads to productive conversation and only serves to ingrain ideology, hinder debate, and galvanize opinions.

So how then is it possible to regain the advantages of communication that invites compassionate, intellectually challenging dialogue even while tackling weighty, passion-inducing issues? How do we teach young people to communicate in a way that is completely counter to most of what they see modeled in society?


Provide opportunity.

Effective communication is best learned through intentional and frequent practice over time. It requires humility and a willingness to master skills such as listening carefully, thinking deeply, researching widely, analyzing logically, and speaking persuasively. These skills can be taught! Educators can incorporate basic listening and comprehension skills into core curricula like history and reading. Inviting opportunities for students to read, share their thoughts, and respond to one another in guided conversation is a great starting point for a respectful debate down the road. Asking them to think about the point of view of specific people in a story lays groundwork for even young students to develop empathy and consideration of others’ perspectives. A thorough understanding of historical events is a strong foundation on which students can build when confronted with new challenges in the future. 


Study logic.

Logic, as a course of study, helps students become more thoughtful readers, thinkers, and speakers. It allows them to draw inferences, understand and identify fallacies, solve problems, and construct arguments that enable them to communicate more effectively. Most educators agree that formal logic is best reserved for middle and high school students, but even very young children can benefit from puzzles and games that introduce problem solving skills. 


Emphasize character.

True civil discourse on any level requires that all parties respect one another. Although differing opinions can inherently introduce tension, encourage students to restrict their analysis and criticism to the ideas presented and not to take criticism personally. Teaching them to agree where they can often sets the stage for a profitable conversation where each side feels valued. Mutual respect also demands that all parties are completely truthful and refrain from exaggeration or manipulation in order to gain advantage. Character should trump winning every time. 


Cultivate discussion.

Since we’re all humans and have a certain amount of self-preservation in our DNA, civil discourse does not always come naturally. Coaching these skills requires intentionality. One easy suggestion is to find an interesting, age-appropriate report from the day’s news and read or watch it together. If you’re just starting out, begin with subject matter that is not overtly controversial. You want the process to be understood and trusted before you move on to emotionally charged issues. What are the main topics? Are there underlying or unstated assumptions? What explicit or implied value is at the heart of the issue? Can you identify logical fallacies in the article? What impact do these fallacies have on your perception? Are there other significant issues that are interrelated to the main topic?

Listen carefully as young people explain their opinions. Ask probing questions that allow them to wrestle with the underlying assumptions that THEY may have missed. Help them to connect the dots in a non-confrontational way. If you teach students to break the arguments down and then scaffold them back together with logic and sound argumentation, they will become truth seekers who are not swayed by the tide of popular opinion.

One word of warning here: Don’t be discouraged or overreact if kids push back on ideas you support. Keep the conversation going by allowing them to process over time. Letting them reason through an issue for themselves instead of simply parroting you or others is well worth the angst it may cause now. The payoff comes when they are out on their own and have the tools to think through an issue when faced with an angle they hadn’t previously considered.

Effective communicators can change the tone of disagreement and hate and allow us to collaboratively and creatively address the very real problems of our day. I am excited to think that as educators, we have the opportunity to challenge and prepare young people to positively impact their world.

As NCFCA’s Executive Director, Kim Cromer provides vision and operational oversight for the organization. She holds an M.S. in Human Nutrition from Clemson University and a B.S. in Biology from the University of South Carolina. Her initial love for educating young people grew as she taught in community colleges and Christian high school before homeschooling her own three daughters. Once her girls were old enough to participate in NCFCA, she found a new outlet for encouraging both parents and young people in their faith, leadership, and communication skills. Her prayer is to see a generation of young people with a firm foundation of faith and an understanding of how to apply and winsomely articulate truth to their world.

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