Confident boys have the gift of the gab

More boys than girls feel confident expressing their views at school and in social situations, a survey of eight to 16-year-olds in the UK has found. Will this help in the jobs market?

'While many people believe teenage boys are not the most articulate members of society, like Harry Enfield's Kevin-the-teenager character, this is an outdated view.'

So says the director of the National Literacy Trust, Jonathan Douglas, responding to a survey of school children aged 8 to 16. Of 6865 students questioned, 69% of boys said they were 'very confident' or 'confident' speaking in front of classmates, compared with 57% of girls.

The research also revealed that more boys than girls felt confident 'saying no to friends', 'talking to new people', 'explaining your point of view', asking when you don't understand something' and 'talking with teachers'.

The only areas where more girls felt more confident were 'talking to people online' and 'listening to other people's opinions'.

The differences are not great but boys also appeared more aware of the value of communication skills than girls.

They were, for instance, more likely to agree with the statements 'if I don't express my views clearly then I don't get listened to' (66% to 58%) and 'if I have difficulty communicating, then people might think that I am not very intelligent' (58% to 51%).

47% of boys strongly agree that good communication skills give them confidence in social situations compared to only 39% of girls.

However, more boys than girls (43% to 36%) said they spent more time online and watching television than speaking to their family.

There were other differences. Girls place less importance on being well-spoken and are less likely to think that those with 'posh accents' are better speakers (46% to 39%).

When asked about factors which promote good communication, girls are more likely to think it's important to see the other person's face with boys keener on hearing other people's voices.

Necessary skills
Does good communication matter? Apparently.

More than four out of five of all pupils thought good communication skills were necessary to do well at school, university, at work and in life generally.

England's communication champion Jean Gross agrees: 'Today's workplaces require people who can get a point across, listen well to others and work in teams,' he said. 'Worryingly, 47% of UK employers say they can't find recruits with these speech and language skills.'

But there may be more to communication than just confidence.

You Decide

  1. 'Good communication is all about getting your point across.' Do you agree?
  2. Is being a confident speaker the same as being a good speaker?


  1. Give everyone in the class a minute to speak on: 'How I feel about public speaking.' In the feedback, give only positive comments. What did you like about what they said and how they said it?
  2. Think of a great communicator. Politician? TV presenter? Teacher? Pop star? Sports person? Analyse and write about what makes them so good.

Some People Say...

“Boys aren't confident, they're arrogant.”

What do you think?

Q & A

Do those who like speaking also like reading?
Not necessarily. As the National Literacy Trust confirms, boys read less than girls and their attitudes to reading are less positive than girls.
So is good communication just a confidence thing?
Confidence helps, but it's also about content: have you got something valuable to say? All the confidence in the world doesn't help if you're spouting rubbish.
And sometimes confidence hides difficulties?
It can do. Despite this survey's findings about boys' confidence, evidence shows that the proportion of boys to girls with speech, language and communication difficulties is around 4:1.A Yes, and that's communication as well. 'We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak,' said Epicetus.


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