I had a pastor once who used to say, “Impression without expression leads to depression.” Whether this statement is true or not, I am not sure, but I am sure that the principle holds.

The ability to communicate is the ability to influence others. Just think of the lasting impact of such statements as, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country,” or, “I have a dream,” or how about, “Mr. Gorbechoff tear down that wall.”

What all these phrases have in common is that they are big ideas, skillfully and persuasively delivered. Such communication inspires action and sometimes changes the course of history.

As we train world-changers, we consider the ability to communicate a crucial part of the training process. We, therefore, place a great emphasis on developing communication skills in both reading and writing.

Humans have an innate desire to express themselves. We see this in music, fashion, and a whole host of other things. We want students to declare what is both good and true, while harnessing the power of words to communicate with beauty.

When I was in grad school, the program of study was quite different than I had experienced. Prior to doctoral studies, my education—from grammar school up—was what I call a lecture/regurgitate model. That is, most of the class the teacher lectured and then on the test we would regurgitate the material.

Now, however, I was in a different environment, one where I was expected to speak, to contribute, and to move the debate forward. Initially, however, I failed at this charge.

Then one day I was discussing an issue from class with a research partner. When I shared with him my thoughts on the question, I drew his ire. He said, “Shane, that is so frustrating. You have insights to add. You have good questions to ask. I cannot understand why you do not contribute in class. When the things we are talking about right now are discussed, you sit there like a knot on a log, and yet all of these thoughts are bouncing around in your head. Why not share them and help move things forward?”

The question was a good one. Why didn’t I share my thoughts? Why not contribute? To be sure, there are many answers to that question. But one main one is: I lacked the confidence to articulate my beliefs, because a certain amount of that confidence only comes from intentional practice under the guidance of a great teacher. In other words, I did not have anyone doing for me what our teachers regularly do for our students.

It is one thing to rigorously think and come to solid a conclusion, but it is quite another to grow in our ability to articulate those positions in ways that make others take notice and force them to deal with what has been the issues. The ability to do that makes our students world-changers of the best sort.

As a matter of fact, it sets them up to influence generations who will live long after they are gone. If our students are able to communicate values, expectations, and purpose in memorable ways, their children will teach them to their children, and so on. Literally, a whole family tree can be shaped when communication is shaped by intentional training.

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