Communication and kids: When is it worth all the effort?

dad_n_me_19_days
My dad getting acquainted with me. He’s 38; I’m 19 days old.

Effective communication can take a lot of time!

Preparing a speech takes much more time than most people realize. Research. Organization. Interviews. Writing. Rewriting. Rehearsal. More rehearsal. Checking venue. Checking tech equipment. Getting decent graphics. Slideware. Travel. And on and on and on. Some experts say you need to devote an hour for every minute you will speak. Even when you’re speaking about a familiar topic, one you’ve spoken on dozens of times before, it takes more prep time than the average person realizes.

It’s like a child, in a way. When my first came along, people told us that a baby would take a lot more time than you realized. Smugly, we thought we were prepared. We were wrong. Life completely changed.

Then we thought we would gain time back after the baby got older. They’re pretty self-sufficient after they’re weaned and can walk, right?

Oh, how wrong!

When the last one came along, my wife and I had already raised four other children (three from my previous marriage, one from hers). We thought we knew what we were getting into.

We didn’t know Hannah would be a special needs child. The previous four had been as easy as Pop-Tarts by comparison.

I think if you could accurately communicate to prospective parents how much time and effort it would take, no one would ever have kids.

Aside from the devastating effect that would have on the continuation of the human race, it’s a very good thing we can’t accurately communicate that–unless we could also accurately communicate the joy that comes from the whole experience. Some of you have had very different experiences, I realize, just as some of you do not have very good memories of your own fathers. I respect that, but I wouldn’t wish to have not had any of them, regardless of how difficult they might have been.

“Worth it” means much more than just dollars and cents. I think that applies to communication skills as well. I wish I had been a better communicator when I was younger. I take some of my greatest professional pride from students who later tell me they not only learned something that helped their jobs, but also helped their families.

I was thinking about this reading a blog post from Karen Maezen Miller. I have two of her books, and I’m looking forward to the third that she is now working on. She writes about motherhood, but in a way that I completely relate to as a father. She helps to put such things into perspective, whether it’s the labor of writing a book or the labor of loving and raising a child. She has helped me to realize the inadequacy of the question we ask despite its nonsensical nature: is it worth it? What a question! That’s like asking if it is worth it to breathe. We just do it.

I hope you will indulge me another Father’s Day post. Dad, thanks for putting in the effort.

I hope our efforts here help you that way in some measure. I’d like to think so. When you consider the time you put into your speeches, your conversations, your writing, and into talking with your significant others, your children, your parents, I hope we’ve been able to help you say, “It’s all worth the effort.”

What about you? Where do you wish you had put more effort into effective communication?

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Author: Donn King

Donn King works with individuals and organizations who want to forge top-notch communication skills to increase their influence and impact. He is associate professor of speech and journalism at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee, as well as a speaker and writer. His background includes ministry, newspaper, radio, small magazines and other publications, as well as co-authoring a textbook and blogging.