I see myself as being outgoing and helpful. This is my perceived self. A friend of mine had a problem with getting to class on time. She didn’t ask me directly for help. She just spoke of how she had trouble leaving her house at the right time. Since I want to be helpful and I see myself that way, I had an idea to go to her house before class. I told her this idea, and she liked it. I was able to communicate effectively by saying my idea out loud. We used two-way auditory channels because she agreed verbally. My friend is an example of an interpersonal relationship. We share things just between the two of us. When she shares things with me, I like to talk about it- this is our shared talking style. I like to help if I can. Most of our communication is verbal.
I am from Korea and meet many challenges here. I am faced with intercultural interactions every day. One challenge is being able to connect with American peers. I can use the example above to show how my ideal self is different from my perceived self. In my ideal self, I wish to be more understanding. I don’t know why she was late or what problems she was having. In my interpersonal relationships, I struggle with giving critical feedback and asking hard questions. I don’t want to offend or drive my friend away. I never asked her what the problem was or why she couldn’t get to class on time. This is how my ideal self is different from my perceived self. My ideal self is being able to be critical so I can understand. I want to know what it’s like for my friend not being able to make it to class on time.
One interpersonal communication behavior I would like to improve is listening. Sometimes when people talk I am eager to talk back. I want to contribute to the conversation and be funny. When my friend talks to me I am thinking about what I can say next that will be funny. A lot of the time I miss what the person said because I was focused on what I would say. A friend I have was telling a story about a plane trip. It was a long story and I didn’t have a chance to say anything. I stopped listening and began thinking about my experience with planes. I have many funny stories about traveling. I have traveled a lot. While my friend was talking I began thinking of a story about one of my trips to America. The fact that I wasn’t listening must have shown on my face. My friend directly asked me if I was listening. Without knowing it was using nonverbal communicating to show I wasn’t listening.
I also struggle with listening to any friends or even strangers because I struggle with my English speaking skills. When I bought food at a cafeteria I had to interact with the person taking my money. She was very kind and friendly and started telling me a story. She used some big words and moved her hands to help her story. Whenever I don’t understand something I stop listening because I am thinking. I think hard if I know the word or phrase. While I am thinking I lose track of what the person is saying. Because I like being outgoing, I don’t say I don’t understand. Instead, I just nod and smile and pretend I understand. This leads to the next interpersonal behavior I want to improve. That behavior is gestures and facial expressions.
I want my gestures and facial expressions to be relaxed in my interpersonal communications. My first language is not English. This makes communicating hard for me. When I don’t understand something I don’t show it on my face. Another example is when a professor called me aside to talk to me. She spoke very quickly and used some words I didn’t understand. But because she was a person of authority I didn’t look away. I nodded and smiled and was very tense. In this dyadic conversation, I didn’t understand what was said to me. Nothing about not understanding showed on my face.
Working on my gestures and facial expressions is a version of being authentic or my natural self. My natural self is very friendly, outgoing, and helpful. Sometimes I force this if I don’t understand. A friend of mine told a long story about his life. It was a sad story. I didn’t understand it was a sad story. I told them something fun to do because I didn’t know what else to say. My friend did not like this. I want to improve being authentic by being helpful and outgoing when the time is right. I don’t always have to be funny. I can be kind or just listen. I wasn’t being authentic because I forced trying to do something fun. This wasn’t helpful. I had to deal with the consequence of my friend being upset with me.
My self-fulfilling prophecy to be outgoing and helpful plays a role in my undesired communication pattern. This happens whenever I am having a conversation. I will focus too much on being helpful and work too hard to be outgoing. This creates a pattern of not listening. I can be too eager to contribute to the conversation and be funny. When I do this I do not listen to the other person. Listening is something I need to improve on. I need to change my behavior to listen better. I can still be outgoing and helpful, but I need to challenge myself and actually listen to the person speaking to me. My perceived self is outgoing and this takes over everything else. When I am talking to a friend I focus on what I can say in English that will make me look outgoing and playful. This takes away from my ability to listen.
We can’t help but have perceptual biases when we have conservations with people. I get first impressions from people that are sometimes wrong. I will get the impression that a person is happy or sad. Then I will reflect that impression in my gestures or facial expressions. I can again use the example above when my friend was telling a sad story. I didn’t realize it was sad and my perceptual bias was to look happy and fun because that is what I like to see and be. I need to change this by understanding the first impression and acting out my gestures and facial expressions to meet what the person is talking about. It could have the consequence of offending someone or losing a friend.
My intrapersonal dialogue plays a role in how I need to change my listening skills. In my mind, I tell myself to be outgoing and funny and help the other person however I can. When I am telling myself how to be helpful I miss what the other person is saying. I am focused too much on what I will say next and not enough on what the person is saying. This happens whenever I’m in a conversation. When my friend was telling me she was late for class I was going through the options to help in my mind. I wasn’t listening. As a result, I failed to understand her true problem. The fact that I didn’t fully understand contributed to the problem of not listening. This plays a role in my undesired communication pattern. It is important to come up with an action plan so I can become a better communicator.
I will become a better listener by changing my intrapersonal dialogue during a conversation. Instead of thinking about what I will say next, I will think about the words the person is saying and make sure I understand them. For example, if my friend is talking about their plane trip, I will not think about my own trip. My intrapersonal dialogue will include questions about their trip. I will think about what they have said and contribute something based on their story. This could still mean I mention my plane trip but in the context of their story. Another step to improve my listening skills will be to ask questions if I don’t understand. Learning English is difficult, and I don’t need to be afraid of asking questions. In a dyadic conversation, I will ask questions if I do not understand.
In order to improve my facial expressions, I will relax by letting face show my true colors. This means that when I am confused and don’t understand I will look like I don’t understand. I may tilt my head or scratch it. I won’t nod and smile and agree when I don’t understand. I will look confused and shake my head. If the cashier at the cafeteria tells me another story that I don’t understand, I will show it on my face. If a professor is talking to me and I don’t understand I will let them know I don’t understand in my gestures and facial expressions. I will be authentic even if I don’t understand.
This new behavior will affect my own self-concept and relationships in a positive way. I will be able to move from my perceived self to my ideal self. I will listen better, and focus my intrapersonal dialogue on listening to what the other person is saying. My relationships will improve because I’ll become a better listener and my friends will like that. It will improve on my end too because I will speak up or gesture that I don’t understand and this will help everyone involved achieve communication competence.