Select Page

Cultivating Communication Skills: Learning to Listen

Listening is a skill that can be learned, and is just as important (if not more so) than speaking. However, when it comes to teaching communication skills in 4-H, we have a tendency to focus on the speaking or writing part more than the listening part. So…we are kicking off our series on communication by focusing on this very important skill!  This blog post will cover, how active listening can benefit adults and youth, tips for active listening, and some activities you can do with your 4-Hers to help them begin building and practicing solid listening skills.

Why focus on listening?

Listening and hearing are not the same- listening involves processing what you have heard, and for many people (including myself) it takes practice! A better description of listening well is active listening. Active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and, then….remember what is being said. Being a good listener also requires being mindful of what you are hearing. Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment – and non-judgmentally. The goal of mindful listening is to silence the internal noise of your own thoughts, so that you can hear the whole message, and so that the speaker feels understood.

Benefits of Active Listening

Infographic developed my Julie Dillard, Washington County UF IFAS Extension

There are several benefits to being a good listener.

  1. Prevent and resolve conflict
  2. Build trust
  3. Helps you learn
  4. Most importantly, good listening skills foster a sense of belonging, which is the most basic measure of a quality youth development program.

So how can we become better listeners? Here are a few tips:

Just listen. Be attentive when you are listening. Do not let other thoughts, like what you are going to say in response, distract you.
Express interest. Use eye contact, posture, and facial expressions to let people know you are interested in what they have to say and that you are ready to listen. Listening is a form of non-verbal communication, which we will delve more deeply into next week during our Virtual Volunteer Leadership Webinar.
Reduce distractions. If possible, refrain from doing other tasks while you are listening so that you can focus on hearing what is being said.
Listen for emotions. Emotions can be expressed through tone, but also through body language- what does the tone and body language of the person tell you?  Are they expressing excitement, frustration, joy or sadness? Be very careful not to judge what the other person is feeling.
Repeat it back. Once the person has finished talking, summarize what you heard and ask them to clarify if necessary.
Don’t be afraid of silence. A silent moment allows the speaker and the listener to process what has been said through words, tone and body language.

How can we teach listening skills to youth?

Here are a few activities you can do virtually or in person with youth of all ages (and adults too). For instructions, click the link or read the instructions below the table. For more ideas, and strategies for non-verbal communication, sign up for our webinar series every third Thursday of the month at 6PM central, 7PM eastern.

Activity Cloverbuds

(5-7 yrs.)

Juniors

(8-10 yrs.)

Intermediates

(11-13 yrs.)

Seniors

(14-18 yrs.)

Adults
Simon Says X X
Paper Tearing X X X X
Listening Inventory X X
Shh…Just Listen X X X
What’s your Problem? X X

Paper-Tearing Exercise
1.) Pass out a sheet of paper to everyone and tell them the following: “We’re going to play a game that will show some important things about communication. Pick up a sheet of paper and hold it in front of you. Now, close your eyes and follow the directions I will give you—and no peeking! You cannot ask questions.”
2.) Give the following directions, carrying them out yourself with your own sheet of paper and pausing after each instruction to give the group time to comply:
• Fold your sheet of paper in half.
• Tear off the upper right-hand corner.
• Fold it in half again and tear off the upper left-hand corner.
• Fold it in half again and tear off the lower right-hand corner.
3.) After the tearing is complete, say something like, “Now open your eyes, and let’s see what you have. If I did a good job of  communicating and you did a good job of listening, all of our sheets should look the same!”
4.) Hold your sheet up for them to see and discuss outcome.
• It is highly unlikely any sheet will match yours exactly.
• How are our papers different?
• Why don’t our papers match?
• How could a different communication method have helped us with this
activity?

Source: Strieter, L. (2008). Communications: Overview of Communications.

Shhhh. Just Listen… 

1.) Work in pairs – Select one person to be the listener and one person to be the  speaker.  

2.) Challenge: The listener has to get the speaker to continue talking for five minutes, but can only make three statements during the time period.  The speaker will talk about a situation that was a joyous occasion (ex.  might be an award, a special event, a new job, etc.). 

3.) Switch roles after five minutes. 

4.) Return to whole group for reflection and discussion. The discussion that follows  concentrates on how: 

  • The speaker felt when the person just listened and did not exchange  information 
  • The nonverbal signals encouraged the speaker 
  • Uncomfortable the silence was 
  • It felt to just listen without having the pressure to contribute 
  • The speaker felt having the freedom to say whatever they felt 

Source: Listening & Communication Exercises by Work Smart Blog, Posted online by Leslie Orr  

http://blog.trainerswarehouse.com/communication -exercises

What’s Your Problem?  

1.) Work in Pairs: One person is the listener and the other is the speaker. 

2.) Role play: The listener practices active listening and tries to diffuse the tense situation. The speaker is upset because of [fill in any scenario].

3.) Discussion: The best way to diffuse a tense situation is to use active listening – it  is important that the person knows you hear what they are saying. It is also  important not to make any promises at that stage of the exchange. Acknowledge  the person’s frustration and let them vent. Then, move on to problem solving – get the person to help in solving the problem and then work on solving it  together.  

Source: Listening & Communication Exercises by Work Smart Blog, Posted online by Tom Lord  http://blog.trainerswarehouse.com/communication-exercises 

 

 

The New Year Brings a New Focus Forward!

After a year like 2020, there is lots of excitement and anticipation around the arrival of 2021. Here at 4-H in the Panhandle, we have been making plans to grow together with our 4-H families and volunteers over the next several months. This past year has been tough, but 4-H members, volunteers and families are resilient! We have decided to go back to the basics and focus on building skills that every 4-H agent, staff, volunteer and member needs to be successful in 2021 and beyond. The Volunteer Knowledge and Research Competencies are six essential skills that every youth and adult needs to be successful 4-H leaders. The skills include: communication, organization, 4-H program management, educational design and delivery, positive youth development strategies, and cooperative interpersonal characteristics. Each quarter will focus on a different skill. Our blog articles, social media posts, and webinars will all focus on building that skill into our personal, professional and most importantly- 4-H culture!  Each week will will have tools and videos to help our 4-H community across the panhandle grow.

We are kicking our series off with communication skills- one of the most basic, but most important skills to have!  Over the next few weeks, we will dig deep into cultivating listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills, advocacy skills and how to use social media effectively (and safely) to communicate the value of your 4-H club or project. To take advantage of this series, you will want to make sure you are signed up. We have intentionally provided several different ways you can receive materials (and it is all free of course!).

  1. Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest (Twitter and Instagram coming soon!)
  2. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, 4-H in the Panhandle, with links to all of our blogposts, videos, checklists and tools
  3. Sign up for our monthly webinar, where we meet to network, share and develop our skills

We hope that you will join us on our journey this year to build strong 4-H clubs, programs and communities across the panhandle of Florida!  For more information about your local 4-H program, please contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

Finding Treasure by Stepping Outside!

Finding Treasure by Stepping Outside!

Youth holding up picture

4-H Virtual Plant Science Camp Bingo Game

July 6th of this year was supposed to be the first day of our 4-H Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Day Camp with Leon and Jefferson Counties participating.  Due to the pandemic, all of our Florida 4-H face to face camps were cancelled this summer due to safety concerns for the students and the instructors.

In spite of everything that has taken place since March of this year, there is still some good news! Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, there is an outdoor classroom in YOUR backyard that has plenty of room for young people and parents to explore. While most youth have spent more time than they probably want to with their families confined, within the four walls of their home, there is no time like the present to explore wildlife and gardening opportunities that await just outside the door. Youth that spend time outside exploring the great outdoors have the unique opportunity to stimulate their senses while engaging in “hands on” educational activities without even knowing it.

4-H provides countless opportunities for youth to gain a better understanding of how all organisms are interrelated and how they can become environmental stewards at home, school, and in the communities in which they live.  What are some of the benefits of converting backyards to outdoor classrooms?

I’m glad you asked…here are just a few!

 

1. Healthy lifestyles are encouraged –
2 kids planting a tree

Youth planting an orange tree after participating in Virtual Plant Science Camp

Active time spent outside may help address some of the health issues we are seeing in children today such as obesity, attention deficit disorders, and depression.

2. Nature deficit disorder decline –

Exposing students to nature and allowing them to learn and play outside has shown to foster sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for the environment.  It combats “nature deficit disorder” …and it can be a lot of FUN!

3. Critical-thinking skills enhanced –

Exploring what is in the backyard and starting a garden provides opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom and enables students to make connections that can be applied to the real world.

4. Responsible action is taken to better the environment –

By exploring outdoors either by planting or just observing nature, youth begin to understand how their decisions and actions affect the environment. It is from this point they can begin to obtain the skills necessary to address complex environmental issues as well as ways we can take action to keep our environment healthy and sustainable for the future.

 

So even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, there may be opportunities to make lemonade out of the  COVID-19 lemons we find ourselves in by unmasking the opportunities that await in our backyards!

For more information about 4-H in your county, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office or visit http://florida4h.org.

*“Please note some pictures were taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we remind people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”

Helping Youth Become Financially Savvy

Helping Youth Become Financially Savvy

Money between the University of FL Extension and 4-H logo

Are you financially savvy?

As a parent, I worry about children and their money habits! They often have trouble distinguishing between a need and a want.  I often wonder if I am empowering them to be financially savvy. I know this is a topic that I continually work on for myself. It is important to start teaching healthy money habits early!  It is also important for children to hear about personal finance to understand how money works in a variety of settings: home, school, and youth organizations. I know my children receive money as gifts and it tends to “burn a hole in their pocket” until it is gone. Like adults, children need to practice making “healthy financial” decisions so that those decisions become “healthy habits,” reducing stress in their lives.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you might think of helping your children or grandchildren start a savings account to provide some financial security for the future. Then, encourage them to keep adding 10-20% of any money they receive to the account for a rainy day or that big purchase they desire.

 

RESOURCES AVAILABLE

Extension and 4-H have several publications and project books that provide guidance in the area of personal finance on spending, saving, investing, and donating. These projects can be done in a group setting or as a self-study project. National 4-H Curricula include “Financial Champions 1: Money FUNdamentals.” This piece has activities allowing kids to develop a money personality profile and style, understand the difference in needs and wants, make informed money decisions, set financial goals, and develop a money plan.

“Financial Champions 2: Money Moves” allows kids to learn how to predict outcomes and analyze their finances. They calculate interest; determine the cost of credit; learn how to manage a checking account, explore selecting financial services, make informed marketplace decisions and discover ways of handling money. National 4-H also has free curricula you can download for older youth.

UF/IFAS Extension also has free resources about money and financial management for adults and families on a wide range of topics such as Consumer Rights, Credit and DebtManagement, End of Life Issues, Finance and Family, Personal Finances Insurance, Retirement Planning, and Saving and Investing. University of Maryland 4-H also has a program called Financial Nuggets. This is a free download giving ideas on how to teach financial decision making to youth. It is designed for family involvement. Therefore families will increase their basic financial capacity and ability to make both short-and long-term decisions regarding spending and saving. It explores topics like needs verses wants, planning and managing money using a budget, how wealth is created and built, and managing risks.

Extension and 4-H want to encourage children, teens, and families to learn about personal finance, to practice what they learn and to teach others. We really want to get 4-H members and their families on the road to being money smart consumers. For more information on financial education and tools to help you become financially savvy or get out of debt, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org. 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest, while being guided by adult volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering, please contact your local office.

 

Remaining Calm as the Waters Churn

Remaining Calm as the Waters Churn

Rough ocean waves during a hurricane.With the first real major storm of the 2019 hurricane season pressing down upon the entire state of Florida and the recent state of emergency declared on all 67 Florida counties by Governor DeSantis, it stands to reason that a lot of anxiety is spinning in the atmosphere along with Hurricane Dorian.

Many of us have experienced firsthand how a hurricane can disrupt our lives beyond something we could ever imagine.  Some are still living in the disruption, trying desperately to find normalcy again.  So, with the threat of Hurricane Dorian looming just a few days away, it is only natural for overwhelming feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and fear to kick in.  You may begin to see these feelings develop among your family members, especially your children.  It is important to recognize these emotions immediately and take action to help not only yourself but your children as well.

PREPARATION

Preparation is one of the most important ways you can regain control  in your situation.  In this case, preparation before Hurricane Dorian (or any future storms) will help reduce anxiety, eliminate any confusion among family members, and create clear communication for all.  Here are some helpful tips for your family on how you can be prepared and reduce anxiety in the hurricane season:

  • Have a family plan – Make it clear, keep it current, and know it well.evacuation route sign
  • Talk openly and honestly with your children about the weather situation – Make it a fun science experiment to explain hurricane patterns. Help them to understand how to track the path of the storm.  Show them where to get accurate weather information like NOAA’s website.
  • Give everyone a role and responsibility – Keep every person involved in the tasks and let them have ownership in getting the family prepared.
  • Create your hurricane preparedness kits – Be sure to check out our information on building a disaster preparedness bucket here. Remember to include your pet’s needs.
  • Share – Allow children to share feelings, concerns, stories of past experiences. Validate real concerns and allow children to come up with possible solutions or positive actions to alleviate those concerns.

We know that natural disasters can change our lives with little to no notice.  Fortunately, Hurricane Dorian is giving you a little extra time to prepare if you have not already done so. Be proactive – take action now and reduce the anxiety level in your household as Dorian approaches.  For the latest resources to help prepare and then deal with natural disasters such as Hurricane Dorian, the UF/IFAS Disaster Preparation & Recovery website offers some important information such as updated contacts, useful tips, and videos for you and your family.

We wish you and your loved ones safety this hurricane season.  Be smart, be prepared, and be confident that you are prepared this season and beyond.

Visit your  local UF IFAS County Extension Office and meet your 4-H Extension Agent for additional information on a variety of topics that can benefit you and your family.  From 4-H educational activities to ways to keep your family safe, Extension and 4-H is always available to assist you and your family.

HELPFUL RESOURCES DURING A DISASTER

 

 

Three Family-Friendly Activities to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Michael was the first ever Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Are you ready?  The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1. The official hurricane weather season continues until November 30, 2019. For Florida residents, it is never too early and not too late to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.  NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released a forecast prediction reporting a 40% chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season and a 30% chance “above normal” indicating a range of 4-8 hurricanes, including 2-4 hurricanes of category 3 or higher.  With this information provided as a means to increase disaster preparedness awareness, it is imperative that our families take action now to minimize the anxiety, stress, and hardships that occur when a disaster strikes. The following information details three family-friendly disaster preparedness activities to complete during the month of June to be hurricane ready for the 2019 season followed by useful informational links.

 

Build a Disaster Preparedness Bucket

complete disaster bucket

The contents of a disaster bucket assembled by Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Nagy.

One annual activity that families can do together is “build a disaster preparedness bucket.”  Families may prepare large plastic storage containers with lids for hurricane snacks and other necessary items. In a storm situation where conditions may require you to move to safety, preparing a 5 gallon bucket with a lid full of recommended essential items will provide a portable, easy-to-store alternative that the whole family can use. Buckets may be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. In your area, organizations like your local city or county emergency management department or the Red Cross may offer a bucket giveaway program with pre-stocked disaster preparedness kits.


Talk About Your Communications Plan

As a family, decide who will be the point of contact for all members to contact in case of emergency.  This activity is an excellent way to engage your child in critical thinking and problem solving. The person or people should be located outside the impacted area – a grandparent or other relative or family friend in another state would be one possibility. Provide each family member with a laminated contact list – with emails, phone numbers, and addresses – that can be kept in disaster preparedness kits, saved in phones, or stored in wallets and backpacks.  Local business supply stores, mail or copy centers in your area may offer laminating services to make waterproof contact lists for safe storage and easy reference.


Have a “Meals To Ready” Taste Test Dinner

After a disaster, your family may be without power for several days or longer. To enjoy safe, hot meals, one option is “meals ready to eat” also known as MREs.  MREs are a complete, filling & nutritious way to feed your family. MREs can be purchased online or in the camping section of stores like Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. These meals have a long shelf life and can be stored for months until needed. Some MREs include built-in heaters while others require boiling water to prepare. Camping MREs tend to be an entrée only. Military style MREs will have most, if not all, of the following components: entrée, side dish, bread, spread, dessert, cold drink mix, instant coffee, spoon, condiments, napkin, moist towelette, and a flameless ration heater.

Completing an MRE taste test as a family planning activity will help you determine which products your children will eat when the time comes to use the MREs. The taste test can be fun for the whole family – have everyone taste and then rate each meal or meal component on a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best possible in flavor and food quality. When you get ready to purchase a supply of MREs, you will know whether your family is going to prefer lasagna to white chicken chili and can shop with confidence!

For more information about hurricane season preparation or 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.


Resources