Related Advancement and Awards
- Tenderfoot requirement 1b
- Second Class requirement 1a
- First Class requirements 1a, 9a, 9b
- Communication, Computers, DigitalTechnology, Journalism, Public Speaking, Radio, and Theater merit badges
- Interpreter strip
- Cyber Chip
Communication: A Key to Opening Doors – Communication is important to your life. Being able to communicate effectively is key to achieving success. It is the way you get people to understand your values, interests, talents, abilities, needs, and wants. It is how you show your knowledge about things.
Good communication means more than just expressing yourself. It also involves listening carefully to others, knowing when to speak up, and knowing when to keep your thoughts to yourself. If you can communicate well, you will be better at just about everything you do, from Scouting to schoolwork to being a good friend.
As you grow older, your ability to communicate grows with you. When you were an infant, you cried to communicate simple messages such as “I’m hungry!” or “My diaper needs changing!” At about 6 weeks of age, you learned to communicate by smiling. This was how you said: “I’m happy” or “I’m comfortable with you.” At around 6 months, you started talking. A mixture of sounds and words tumbled out of your mouth. Every day, you got a little better at it. By the time you started school, you had advanced from “Da-da!” to “Can you come over to play?”
Today, you are able to communicate complex thoughts about things like sports, math, and movie plots. You may have learned a special group of words related to a favorite hobby or sport. You may have even learned to communicate in a second language.
What Is Communication? – Simply put, communication is the act of sharing information with others. Most forms of communication are symbolic. A symbol is something that means or stands for something else. For example, the American flag is a symbol of America.
Language – Language is the most common way we use symbols to communicate verbally and in writing. Most languages use an alphabet to symbolize (stand for) sounds in the spoken language. We combine letters in the alphabet to form words that can be spoken or written. Some words symbolize things you can hold or touch. “Apple,” for example, stands for a fruit we love to eat. Other words, such as “love,” “intelligence,” and “freedom,” stand for intangible things—things you cannot hold or touch. We combine words to form sentences. Sentences state facts, opinions, questions, or commands, such as, “The apple looks delicious” and “May I have one?”
Speaking without words – Not all communication uses words. There are many ways we communicate nonverbally, or “without words.” Nonverbal communication can still use symbols, however. For example, if a male Scout is in a public place and he sees a female figure on a bathroom door, he will know not to go through that door, even if there are no words on it.
Some types of communication use words and nonverbal symbols. The eight-sided red sign printed with the word STOP in white letters tells drivers to stop their cars. You would probably know the sign’s meaning even if the word was not there. That is because the color red, which signifies danger, and the eight-sided shape (called an octagon) are used on no other road sign in the United States. In this case, three different symbols—a word, a color, and a shape—all help communicate the same important meaning.
Talking with your body – Another nonverbal way to communicate is through “body language.” Body language is communication through body movements, gestures, and facial expressions. It can be as simple as a smile, frown, or nod of the head. Shaking hands when you meet someone is a nonverbal way to communicate goodwill. For people in the military, a salute—raising the right hand, held flat to the forehead over the right eyebrow—shows respect. Legend has it that the practice had its origin in the Middle Ages, when knights raised the visors of their helmets to greet each other.
Body language can even communicate whole sentences. For example, many people who are deaf, and their friends and families, use a special language called American Sign Language, or ASL. This language uses hand movements and “finger spelling” to communicate thoughts.
Why Study Communication? If we learn to communicate naturally, why do we study communication? The answer is that we all can improve our communication skills if we practice them. That improvement means learning to be a better listener and a more confident public speaker. According to the National Communication Association, “Communication is a learned skill. Most people are born with the physical ability to talk, but we learn over time to speak well and communicate effectively.”