HCOM 214: Interpersonal COMM & Conflict

Learning interpersonal communication skills to improve every part of our lives

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Nonverbal Communication

Although I am an affectionate and touch oriented individual I still prefer a decent amount of space when dealing with most people. Depending on my relationship with them, the proximity I desire changes, but the situation I am in also dictates how close I’ll allow someone to be to me.

People I allow in my intimate space include my boyfriend and my close friends or family members. My partner is the most likely person to be in my intimate space for long periods of time such as when we are watching a movie or giving each other a massage. Friends I am very close with are allowed in my intimate space when we are comforting each other with touch or having a hushed private conversation, or huddling together for warmth. When I am in a public setting I am more likely to allow a friend into my intimate space than my partner. The idea of overactive  PDA irritates me and I don’t like to engage in especially intimate activities in front of my friends, family, or strangers. I would be more likely to give a friend or family member a long embrace when needed than to make out with my partner on a street corner simply because I feel it is a more private activity and less urgent than the needs of a friend.

Personal space is similar to intimate space because it includes my partner, my friends and close friends, as well as family members. I like to be close to people when conversing so my friends and I will sit side by side or across from each other with less space. I enjoy the intimacy of being close to these people in my life without feeling suffocated by them. I am more likely to allow a friend into personal space than to intimate space because typically that space is for people I feel more comfortable and secure around, such as my partner and closer friends.

Social space is much more open, and I will include majority of people I know in social space. Social space includes cashiers in stores, people I pass by in halls or on the bus, as well as strangers i strike up conversations with. Their is not many people I would be uncomfortable with in my social space, unless it was someone I already had an intense disliking for or a stranger that gave me a bad feeling about them, or a stranger in my social space that I was in an isolated area with.

Public space includes everyone around me except for people I dislike or find creepy because any proximity to these people would affect me.

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Verbal Communication

Would I consider changing my name? Yes I would. I recently had quite a dilemma over whether or not to change my last name. My step father’s last name is Dawson and it is the name my mother has as well, while my sister and I remained Lisanti’s. Due to my relationship with my biological father, or lack thereof, I wanted my name to be Dawson at my high school graduation to honor the father who supported and raised me. We looked into the adoption process but discovered it would be very lengthy and would not go through in time for my graduation. In addition to this it required I contact my biological father, something that was not possible. Next we looked into a legal name change where I would simply change my last name. This too was a lengthy as well as expensive process.

It was at this point that I began to have second thoughts. Although my biological father and I are not close, I am very connected to my aunts and uncles and other relatives from his side of the family. I always took pride in being a Lisanti because it reminds me of the good people in my family. I didn’t want to hurt their feelings by making them think I was ashamed to be related to them and my biological grandmother especially took it hard. I also love how unique it is because I’ve never met a Lisanti that I wasn’t related to. My last name has meaning to me because it connects me to my Italian heritage that I’ve always been very proud of. When it finally came time to graduate, I requested that my name be read hyphenated as Lisanti-Dawson.

This event proved to me how connected people re to names. I never gave my last name much thought until I considered changing it and faced a difficult personal decision as I attempted to honor both sides of my family without hurting either. I will perhaps change my name if I get married or consider a hyphenated option because although my name is just a word it makes me feel closer to my family.


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Active Listening

The most active listener in my life is my best friend Leah. She has been my best friend since the second grade and knows me better than just about anyone else. Due to the fact that she has so much knowledge about me, she has learned the ways I most like to be listened to and always responds to me exactly as needed whether it be analyzing, empathizing, or just letting me talk. Main habits she employs are maintaining eye contact, nodding, asking clarification questions, and making me feel like what I am telling her is important. Because she is such a talented listener, she is the first person I go to with all kinds of problems and I trust her with anything because I know I will be listened to, given feedback, and given advice when needed. She employs plenty of back-channel cues and paraphrases if she does not understand while still managing to keep the conversation going. Whereas my other friends friends offer quick solutions and attempt to solve problems she will mimic my emotions and feel them the same way I do in order to best understand how to respond to me.

I have encountered many different type of listeners in my life and I personally feel most comfortable with people-oriented listeners. My best friend and I both fit most under this listening type as well as content-oriented listening at the necessary times. My experience with narcissistic and aggressive listeners has been completely negative and I find it very difficult to communicate with them. Pseudo and selective listeners are also overall unpleasant which is why I love that my friend hardly employs these tactics. Many of the conversations with my friend require both of us venting about things that have been bothering us and its very therapeutic as we both relieve pent up emotions. It’s really difficult being away from her after seeing her almost every day for over 10 years, so we call each other often when we need to talk and she is still my go to person for all kinds of emotional support.

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Unfortunately, a situation in which I used suppression to deal with my emotions recently came back to haunt me. My biological parents separated when my mother was pregnant with me and my biological father was in and out of my life from this point on. From problems with drug use to stints in prison he always was moving, losing jobs, and losing contact with my sister and I. He remarried and had my half brother with my step mom and during this time was more constant in my life. However, they both became more involved in drugs, he started missing visits and not answering calls until eventually all contact was lost in 2009.

I occasionally heard of his whereabouts from other relatives such as moving states and divorcing my step mom and her getting clean but made no further contact directly with him. All my life I had been vulnerable and blamed myself for my father not wanting to be around me. My older sister became jaded quicker than me and no longer worried about it. However, after this last time I used suppression and avoided all feelings or mention of him and replaced him with my step dad in the role of father. I deactivated, suppressed and avoided all mentions of him for 7 years.

About a month ago I received a message on Facebook from my biological father. He told me that after the death of his brother (my uncle who passed away a few months ago) he has finally realized the importance of family and wants to be a part of my life. Immediately upon receiving this all my suppressed emotions such as anger, sadness, grief, shame, disappointment, and fear came flooding back giving me a lot more to deal with than I’d bargained for. I am still working through these emotions that have poured back in and have yet to reply to the message. Overall I would not recommend suppression as a primary technique of dealing with emotions, especially not in the long term, because although the emotions went away at the time, I felt them with overwhelming force when forced to confront them again. 0/10 would not recommend 😦



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Perceiving Others

Recently I encountered an individual who appeared to be opposite from me in every way possible. Everything from political views to food preferences this individual and I disagreed. I immediately took a disliking to him because he disrespected my viewpoints and dismissed my knowledge and opinion because it did not agree with his own. Basic human respect and honesty, I learned, are of no importance to him as he condescendingly bombarded me with words without bothering to listen to my responses and even blatantly lying to get attention. I abhorred the sight of him and would constantly argue with him praying that eventually I could persuade him to even glance at my perspective. Normally when I encountered people of this sort I avoid them at all costs. But because of his relations with people close to me, I found myself in his presence nearly every day and became more and more miserable.

However, after some pondering and quite a few instances of losing my temper I realized that by behaving the way I was, I was more similar to him than I’d realized. I attempted to dial back on my aggression and attempt to see things from his point of view. I gained a lot of insight and in learning more about his background I learned why he behaved so disrespectfully and did not concern himself with other’s feelings and opinions. He strove to such great lengths for attention because he lacked it much earlier in life. This knowledge made me more empathetic towards his character and I began to find better ways to communicate with him that did not lead to arguments and anger. Although I had to swallow my opinions and values when I spoke to him, I was able to find things we had in common and could talk about without causing issues.

Although I don’t particularly like this individual and certainly would not attempt to spend time with them, I learned how to treat people with respect, even if they do not treat you with the same. I do not expect to like everyone I encounter in life, but I would like to be able to communicate with people I do not relate to whatsoever. This experience as taught me a lot of how others upbringing and history shapes who they are, and with some effort and control you can have pleasant conversation and get along with people who you would not expect to.

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Self Concept

One positive label I always remember hearing about is nice or kind. Since childhood, my parents always stressed that I be nice and extend kindness to everyone, friends, family, and strangers. I was always rewarded and praised if I shared with my sister or was generous with kids at school. Eventually as I grew older, being nice became a central part of my self concept as I did my best to help everyone I met and always be nice, just as I was conditioned. Being nice to people was easy and made me feel good about myself and I tried my best to come across as nice to everyone I met. It got to the point where I realized that being purely nice all the time had become a kind of passive shield as others began to take advantage of me because they knew I was nice and would put up with it. From doing all the work in group projects to some of my best friends ignoring me or teasing whenever they wanted because they knew I would forgive them. After a lot of difficulties understanding how being nice made me feel so awful, I began to evaluate what I believe it means to be nice, and how I could continue to do so while remaining true to myself and not getting taken advantage of. I came to the conclusion that I could be nice to everyone I met without doing everything they asked of me. Letting go of passivity was difficult, as was talking to my friends about how I felt used and ignored but I made a lot of steps to maintain happiness while holding onto one of my core concepts. In my relationships today I still do my best to extend kindness towards everyone I meet while still continuing to be true to myself and my self concepts now. I still like to appear as nice in my new and old relationships, but in a way that portrays I am my own person. 🙂