Learning Social and Communication Skills

Learning Social and Communication Skills

Date: 11/11/2013

We spend so much of our time communicating, you would think that people would be quite competent at it.  Surprisingly, very often just the opposite is true. In Shidduchim (dating), marriage, raising children, education, and the workplace many people find that they are not communicating effectively. This can mean loneliness, excessive friction in relationships, monetary losses, etc. 

For some people, working on social and communication skills is a matter of making them aware of annoying communication patterns they have and teaching them more effective ones.  Often it may mean  learning principles of  "social tact":--how and when to enter conversations,  when to terminate them, etc. 

For other people it may be helping them to understand how to make friends and build relationships. 

 Finally, there are people  with personal issues (excessive shyness or  social phobias,  for example) that have to be addressed and worked through.  

Here are some examples of people I have worked with.

#1: A man in his early twenties who found it very difficult to relate to people.  His father, while providing his material needs, did not show any affection or warmth to him when he was growing up.  This young man also treated people like objects. One of the main problems he had was relating to the "nonsense" of other people, and he would often say very piercing remarks when he encountered "nonsense".  The underlying issue was that he wanted more emotional contact with people, but emotional closenss felt strange and even dangerous.  Therefore, he went about it in this dysfunctional way of making insulting remarks-- which only drove people away from him.   We worked on becoming aware of this and helping him to appreciate the uniqueness and "humanity" of people.  People are not robots and they are going to be doing things that he feels are nonsense.  To respect other people includes understanding their faults and shortcomings. Then we worked on tools for better communication and making friends since he had never really developed these skills.

#2: A girl in her early teens who had trouble making friends.  Worse, she was constantly being picked on by her classmates.   Her self-image was very poor and her social situation only helped to reinforce her self-image.  We improved her situation with the following:  First, she had a very negative look on her face.  She appeared as if she was accusing the person she was talking to. I told her that by thinking of something positive--or as least, neutral--she would change her facial expression and as a result, people would relate to her more positively. She also had a "command" voice tone which means that her voice dropped down at the end of a sentence. She sounded very bossy, even though that was not her intention. I taught her to raise it or keep it "straight" so that it would not sound as if she was bossing people around.  Second, we did some work on improving her self image because the way you relate to yourself influences how other people will relate to you. Third, we worked on how to make friends and build relationships.  This includes having realistic expectations about what people will do for you. And, that friendships have to develop over time;  they cannot be forced to develop faster than the other person wants.    It includes awareness of how a given individual is relating to me.   There are different levels of closeness and it is important to be aware of how close the other person wants to be towards me.  Then to respond to the person on her level and, perhaps, a bit more.   It includes identifying those girls who were acting nastily towards her and passively and subtely avoiding them whenever possible.   At the same time being ready that sometimes people will change and become more friendly.  Fourth, as a general rule (there are exceptions and we discusssed those) to be pleasant to everyone that you encounter and how to be pleasant and speak to them in a pleasant way--while at the same time, standing up for your rights.

#3: A 20 year old Yeshiva student who had very poor social skills.  For instance, he would photograph the other students while they were learning even though they--as well as the Rebbes in the Yeshiva--had asked him not to because it disturbs and annoys them.  Once he hit some children who were doing something he felt was wrong. When they did not stop he threw a stone on them to make them stop. At the root of this second incident was a strong desire to do what is right and correct any wrongdoings he saw (In Torah this is known as the trait of "Emmes").  We discussed that there is an equally improtant Torah trait of "Shalom" or "Peace" , how to use the two together, and when one prevails over the other. My main intention was to make him aware that his actions were being driven by an inbalance.  This topic of "Shalom" and "Emmes" has been discussed in many Torah commentairies and more information can be found out in them. For the first incident of doing something that was inappropriate because it bothered other people I taught him an NLP technique (called "Perceptual Positions") which enables you to examine situations from other people's perspectives in order to understand better how they feel. Even though they had asked him to stop, he did not take them seriously because he had been oblivious to their strong feelings about what he was doing.

#4: A mother in her late 50s who had a serious communication problem with her 34 year old son.  She found it very frustrating because he was not going anywhere in life and whenever she would give him a suggestion about how to live his life, he wouldn't even try it out.  The problem in the way she was communicating with him boiled down to her attitude. The listener will pick up the attitude and may "block" the communication if the speaker's attitude rubs him the wrong way.  I never met the son, but from what she told me I guessed that this is what was happening.  The problem in her communication with him was that inadvertently she was acting the part of his therapist, trying to solve his life issues. Furthermore she was looking for a trick or scheme that would get him to follow her ideas.  We worked on developing a new attitude which was that " I love you and care about you but I also respect the fact that you are old enough and mature enough to make your own decisions".  We also worked on how to be more natural with him when discussing topics. In other words, she should relate to him more openly and honestly rather than trying to create a scheme in order to to get him to follow her ideas.  A corollary of all of this is that she should not expect him to instanteously make major changes.  He will change to the extent and at the time he decides is right for him.   

#5: A young man in his mid 30s who had major difficulties relating to people.  Part of the problem stemmed from the fact that he was shy and introverted.  Then, when he changed from the religious group in which he had grown up to a different group he found it even more challenging to get along with people in the new group.  He was also extremely intelligent and had used his intelligence be successful in school--at the expense of developing a feeling side in himself.  He had no close friends; his relationships with peers were very superficial.  He wanted to get married, but was afraid of the responsibilities of having to spend so much time together with someone and get along with her on a deeper level than he was accustomed to and comfortable with. His parents were very concerned about his situation and tried to tell him how to change his personality, how to converse with people, how to make friends, etc.  Despite their good intentions, their efforts only made him feel worse about the situation and more resistant to change.   Initially we discussed his fears about entering marriage and worked on communication and social skills.  But, he was reluctant to make any personal changes.  What was a breakthrough for him was discussing with him all of the positive qualities he had and then telling him that the woman he will marry will like him and respect him for who he is.  People had convinced him that in order to get married he was going to have to change in ways that he was uncomfortable with.  Discarding that belief and adopting the new belief gave him the self-confidence to be himself--and be happy about it. 

#6: A 28 year old man with a terrible stuttering problem. He had been to a speech therapist, but to no avail.  I have never met someone who stuttered as he did.  Indeed, he could not say two words without getting stuck.  This was interfering with his social life both with male peers and, more importantly, when he would meet with a young lady.  Every date was a total disaster and she would invariably refuse to go out a second time. Then things got worse because he had a reputation and no one even wanted to bother trying to go out with him.  I was able to cure his stuttering in two sessions using the NLP eye accessing technique. This is based on brain research that the position of one's eyes indicates if the brain is processing visual, auditory, or kinesthetic information.   I noticed that just as he was about to say something his eyes would go into auditory position which means they were looking to his side rather than up or down.  This is an indication that his brain was processing sounds.  I asked him if he had had any trauma in childhood and he told me that his father used to scream at him a lot.  I taught him how to look up when he is talking which puts the brain in a visual mode instead of auditory.  Bingo! He immediately started talking without stuttering.  In case you find that incredible, let me tell you that I remember feeling an adrenalane rush of excitement and total astonishment. And, how did he feel?  He was in total shock as he sat there talking away without stuttering.  In other words, the memories of his childhood trauma being scolded by his father were triggering the stuttering. I surmised that something like the following used to happen. His father would scream at him and demand responses.  As a young, helpless child he felt overwhelmed and unable to cope.  So, he escaped by stuttering and then he would not have to respond to his father.  But, by putting his mind in a visual mode he was no longer accessing the painful memories that triggered the stuttering, and was able to speak normally. Next we practiced starting in visual with his eyes up and gradually bringing them down to make eye contact with the person he was speaking to. Then we practiced bringing down his eyes faster and faster.  In the event that he would begin to feel that he was about to stutter, he would put his eyes up again. After some practice he did not have to put his eyes up in visual at all. This worked for him and I have seen him years later and he is speaking normally. The reason that the speech therapist was unable to help him is because his problem was not a technical one that learning how to breathe properly, etc. would cure.

There are a number of articles on this website that will give you a picture of the different communication patterns that I teach people who feel they are lacking in social and communication skills.

To schedule an appointment contact me by phone: 052-763 7029 or by email: shlomokory@gmail.com 

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