Learning To Communicate Despite Your Background

ASK DR. DONNA

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How important are communication skills? I think they are the foundation for success in any relationship.

I was recently talking with a friend about this topic. I asked him if he thought people could be taught how to communicate. He said, "Some people are naturally shy, and many people have grown up in families where they never learned to express their feelings and it's foreign to be able to express themselves." He is right on both counts.

I recall a class I took several years ago in college called Psychological Anthropology, where I learned of a study of newborn infants who were followed until adulthood when they turned 21. The researchers discovered over a dozen personality traits that could be termed "inherent," but even with these traits, the children could be molded by the environment around them.

For example, one of these "inherent" traits was slow reaction time. For these children, if they were presented with stimulation in their environments, (i.e. mobiles above the crib) the stimuli could speed up their reaction time.

So, suppose we are inherently shy and our families do not express their emotions easily. Then we have a double whammy.

We grow up and tend to re-enact our family communication patterns in our adult relationships. Is there any hope for us?

I was one of those people. So, yes, I think there is. With Nonviolent Communication skills, it only takes one person to learn the tools to be able to speak honestly and listen without defensive reactions to others. With practice, we can teach family members and others we are close to how to hear us with understanding and we can listen to them in the same manner as well.

But like my friend above said, it is like learning a foreign language if you have not been taught or raised in an environment conducive to open communication.

How do you learn a foreign language (or any skill for that matter)? Repetition and practice. I remember a high school Spanish class where the teacher always said, "Repitan por favor." (Repeat please) following each sentence or phrase that she taught us.

To learn more about Nonviolent Communication skills, please visit www.cnvc.org, or www.nvcaz.com. There is also a book titled Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life, by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., 2003.

-- Send your questions or comments to: Ask Dr. Donna, P.O. Box 2204, Payson, AZ 85547-2204 or e-mail drdonna@cbiwireless.com.

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