ME, MYSELF, AND YOU
Interpersonal and Family Relationships
“Sticks and stones may break my bones…”
Picture yourself sitting across from someone with whom you have a strong relationship. You’ve known them for a long time; you trust them and they trust you. Now, you lean over to this person. They lean in close to you. You whisper to them, “What did the five fingers say to the face?” They look at you confused and say, “What?” “Slap!” Then you slap them across the face and laugh.
“…But words will never hurt me.”
You may have been joking or you may have been mad, but your words hurt them as much as the physical slap did. We make a big deal about physical assault because it is a big deal, but a verbal assault can be just as damaging. In some cases, the way we convey emotions through words not only acts as a slap in the face, but it also leaves a longer lasting scar. Words have weight. We sometimes pretend that they don’t, but we know they do. The words we collect in papers, journals, letters, e-mails, and notes have value. Spoken words also have value. Just ask a poet. We need to work on not taking words, or the people that we speak these words to, for granted. Think of the absence of words as well. Silence is often viewed as consent. We need to think about what it means when we speak up, and what it means when we don’t. We should learn to listen before we speak. This is the philosophy behind Interpersonal Communication – the kind of communication that we engage in with the people close to us.
COMMUNICATION BEGINS WITH LISTENING
Imagine standing in front of a classroom full of people and not speaking for one full minute. How would you feel? Would you be comfortable? Why or why not? Now you get an idea of the significance of both speaking and listening. It is possible to “listen” to someone when they are not saying a word.
Passive Listening: Are you listening to me?
Have you ever been asked this question? Sure, everyone has. It’s often hard to pay attention. Life has many distractions. We get distracted during a boring lecture, in traffic, when we are waiting, and sometimes when people we care about are talking to us. It’s completely common to be distracted but we need to notice what it is we miss; we need to understand the effect that passive listening has on those we have relationships with.
Active Listening: Did you hear me?
There is a difference between listening and hearing. Hearing involves understanding the person or people you are listening to, and it has to do with more than just words. How are they sitting or standing? Is their posture open to you or closed off? Do they seem relaxed or tense? To better illustrate this, think of a pet. Its primary way of communicating with us is non-verbal. Because we have extremely rewarding relationships with pets, perhaps we should pay a little attention to the non-verbal signals of the humans in our lives as well.
CAN CONFLICT BE A GOOD THING?
Conflict can be good! We often think of conflict as being dangerous or detrimental to us in some way. In Drama (on stage and screen), conflict is the word used to describe when something is happening – something interesting. So try to think of conflict in this way – as a signal that something interesting is happening. We should stick around instead of running away. Stay to see what happens next.
SELF REFLECTION: FACTUAL VS. EMOTIONAL
We all need to think about how we speak to everyone – how our words affect other people. We also need to think about how we react to others speaking with us. There are two main areas that we all need to work on in our interpersonal communication within our relationships.
The first question to ask when examining a conflict is “Do I know what’s going on?” This is actually one big question that brings up other little questions, like:
Remember, our remarks are cumulative: they build on each other. If we aren’t careful with our emotions and with other people’s emotions then…SLAP!
Dennis Webster, Ph.D.
Associate Dean, University Life
Director, Multicultural Research and Resource Center
Ric Chollar, LCSW
Assistant Director for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,
Transgender and Questioning Students
Rebecca Walter, M.A.
Diversity Trainer & Curriculum Development
Multicultural Research and Resource Center
Family can be the most important resource you have both in college and life. For this reason you should strive to maintain a relationship with your family during your transition to college. Becoming more independent can give you many advantages. Be careful, however, not to lose important family connections. Use the following list as a guideline to maintaining those connections.
*Adapted from “Survival Tips for Families”; Orientation Director’s Manual; published by the National Orientation Directors Association
Lisa Snyder, M.A.
Assistant Director for Family Programs and Services
Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services
The Multicultural Peer Empowerment Program (PEP) provides emotional support and outreach services for students from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds. The program provides direct peer support for academic and personal concerns through peer counselors. Diversity for PEP is about providing supportive educational resources for all students that incorporate their unique differences as a significant part of the learning process and teaching inclusiveness, tolerance, and unity for all students as a united people. Some objectives include addressing cultural issues that can negatively affect a student's transition into an institution of higher education; facilitate understanding of the university as a multi-cultural community; provide a resource center for an academic exchange of exchange ideas and knowledge with faculty and staff; refer students to the proper campus resources; encourage participation in campus and community activities; and assist with or develop workshops, programs and special activities based on student interests and concerns. Please see http://www.gmu.edu/student/peer/ for information.
The Department of Communication strives to establish a vibrant and exciting intellectual environment for examining the evolving communication demands of modern life and to prepare students to excel in increasingly complex public and private communication settings, such as government, education, health care, the law, the media, entertainment, and organizational life. Applications of communication research and theory are encouraged to promote real world problem-solving; increase understanding of complex communication environments; enhance appreciation of the First Amendment and ethical communication issues; effectively use human communication and multimedia technologies; develop critical thinking about messages and influence processes; and manage complex communication challenges of the new century. For a comprehensive listing of programs, courses, classes, and resources visit http://www.gmu.edu/depts/comm/.
The English Language Institute (ELI) provides quality instruction in English as a Second Language (ESL) that will develop the language, academic skills, and cultural awareness needed for the student’s academic, personal and/or professional growth. In addition to classroom instruction, students receive a wide variety of support services designed to facilitate their transition to college life and study at a university in the United States. More information can be found at http://eli.gmu.edu/curr_students/eliinformation.htm.
Family Involvement Awareness Campaign (FIAC) – is a partnership activity of the Education Standards Task Force, which includes schools, PTAs, universities, businesses, media, and community organizations, dedicated to promoting student development through family involvement. Tips, contact information and other links are available at http://www.gmu.edu/pubs/fiac/.
The Debate Team offers students the opportunity to debate in one of the highest quality programs in the nation. Mason Debate provides students of all experience levels the opportunity to travel and compete at appropriate levels of competition. Academic credit is available for participation and the Debate Team has excelled in both regional and national competition. Participating in tournaments from coast to coast, the team reflects a broad-based philosophy, maximizing student learning at the novice, junior varsity, and varsity competition levels. See http://www.masondebate.org/gmu/index.asp?loc=content.
The Writing Center seeks to foster a writing climate both on and off campus by offering free writing support to George Mason students, faculty, staff and alumni. Regardless of writing abilities, writing specialists can help develop the skills needed to become a successful writer. The Center hopes to serve the entire Mason community by empowering individuals to become better writers, critical thinkers, and communicators. English as a Second Language and Writing Across the Curriculum initiatives also provide services to non-native speakers of English and to all academic disciplines. For more information, resources, and links related to the writing process through topic-related workshops, and various handouts visit the Writing Center Web Page at http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/.
The Office of Diversity Programs and Services (ODPS) serves students, cultural organizations, and the Mason community by promoting an environment that fosters and values human understanding and diversity. The goal of ODPS is to provide a campus environment where diversity is valued, appreciated, and celebrated. ODPS is also dedicated to helping make students' hopes, dreams, and goals become reality. A variety of programs and services are in place to aid students in becoming the best they can be. All students are welcome; services are listed at http://www.gmu.edu/student/msaf/about_services.html.
The Office of Orientation and Family Programs and Services (OFPS) has a primary purpose of fostering engagement, building community, establishing tradition, and affecting retention. Three coordinated initiatives include undergraduate orientation, family/parent outreach, and leadership development. See information about Family Weekend, what parents and families need to know, money matters, and how to get involved. See http://www.gmu.edu/departments/orientation/.
The University Life offices foster a learning and living environment to enhance in-and-out of class experiences, facilitate interaction with faculty, staff, and students, and assist in the transition to a college culture. Visit http://www.gmu.edu/departments/unilife/offices.html.
The Self-Development Center’s Media Library houses topics on relationships
that can be found at http://www.gmu.edu/departments/csdc/relation.htm.
The Self-Development Center’s Media Library houses topics on communication that can be browsed at http://www.gmu.edu/departments/csdc/communic.htm.
Focus Adolescent Services offers a wealth of resources regarding a number of behavior risks issues such as a child abuse hotline, concern hotlines for various counties, the national domestic violence/abuse hotline, runaway hotlines, and an adoption support and education link at http://www.focusas.com/Virginia.html.
Northern Virginia Family Service operates on the principle that families are the foundation of a strong society. The web site offers frequently asked questions, health care, housing services, foster care, life counseling and much more at http://www.nvfs.org/.
Prince William County offers resources for parents such as early intervention programs, nutrition education workshops, parenting when living apart, and information on financial education. Browse each program at http://www.co.prince-william.va.us/default.aspx?topic=01010800010.
Virginia Cooperative Extension – Family and Community Sciences and Food, Nutrition, and Health Publications offers a list of publications regarding food, nutrition and health directed toward keeping families and the community healthy. Included in the online list is also a series of family functioning tips such as involvement, responsiveness, behavior control, communication, family roles, and problem solving at http://www.ext.vt.edu/resources/fcspublications.html.
Virginia Department of Health – Office of Family Health Service offers information on 50 programs that focus on strengthening the health of families and communities, and provide risk avoidance tips and information on how certain issues affect public health. http://www.vahealth.org/
Virginia PTA is a volunteer child advocacy association working for all children and youth in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Explore their programs and resources online at http://www.vapta.org/.
YMCA of Metropolitan Washington offers many locations in the Northern Virginia area. YMCA offers community services, health and fitness programs, childcare, camps, and youth and family services. The Youth and Family Services Programs offer counseling, family consultations, parenting programs, and community and school-based programs for youth. For more information visit them at http://www.ymcawashdc.org/.
Administration for Children and Families – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for federal programs that promote the economic and social well being of families, children, individuals, and communities. More information at http://www.acf.dhhs.gov/programs/ofa/.
Best Friends: How to Grow a Friend is a suggested 12-step guide that can be found at http://www.cyberparent.com/friendship/growdirectory.htm.
Break the Cycle is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to end domestic violence by working proactively with youth. Break the Cycle further provides preventive education, free legal services, advocacy and support to young people. In addition to information about domestic violence, the web site also offers statistics, warning signs of abuse, legal options, safety planning, and information on how and where to get help. www.break-the-cycle.org
Casey Family Programs provides and improves foster care. http://www.casey.org/.
Children, Youth and Women’s Health Service offers help regarding relationships for individuals between 18 to 25 years of age. The web site offers such topics as conflict and negotiation, family breakdown, friends, girl friends and boy friends, pressure to have sex, relationship violence, and many other helpful topics at http://www.cyh.com/.
Community United Against Violence (CUAV) is a multicultural organization working to end violence against and within lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) communities. In an effort to end homophobia and heterosexism, CUAV addresses all forms of oppression. CUAV offers a 24-hour confidential, multilingual support line, free counseling, legal advocacy, and emergency assistance to survivors of domestic violence, hate violence, and sexual assault. CUAV uses education as a violence prevention tool through the speaker’s bureau, the youth program, and the domestic violence prevention program. For more information about programs visit http://www.cuav.org/.
Eating Disorder Recovery Center offers a segment regarding family relationships and a theory that relations correspond with eating disorders. For more information visit http://www.addictions.net/default.aspx?id=5.
The ESL Cyber Listening Lab is a cyber lab site to improve listening skills for individuals learning English as a second language. Online resources include listening quizzes, short listening exercises and long conversations available online at http://www.esl-lab.com/.
The Ethicist is a National Public Radio column tackling the ethical dilemmas of listeners. For witty and practical solutions to life’s dilemmas, read this column at http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/ethicist/index.html.
The Family Violence Prevention Fund works to prevent violence within the home and in the community to help those whose lives are devastated by violence. For a list of programs, visit http://endabuse.org/.
Friends National Resource Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention’s purpose is to support community-based efforts to develop, operate, expand, and enhance networks and initiatives aimed at the prevention of child abuse and neglect. http://www.friendsnrc.org/
The Journal of Social and Personal Relationships website contains links to published research related to all aspects of social and personal relationships. Examples of article topics include, HIV/AIDS in the Context of Social and Personal Relationships, Narratives In and About Relationships, and Race/Ethnicity in Interpersonal Relationships, as well as a link to the International Network on Personal Relations dedicated to understanding personal relationship complexities. http://www.jspr.org/
The National Eating Disorders Association is the largest not-for-profit organization in the United States working to prevent eating disorders and provide treatment referrals to those suffering form anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder and those concerned with body image and weight issues. The web site includes research, links and resources, employment opportunities, parent and family network, programs and materials at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/.
The National PTA Web page contains information about member benefits, programs, contact information and links to local PTA’s in the area. The PTA helps parents develop skills to raise and protect their children, and to encourage a close relationship between home and school. http://www.pta.org/
The Nonverbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs and Body Language Cues contains definitions, meanings, and interpretations by scholars of human nonverbal behavior and communication. The website draws on the research of anthropologists, archaeologists, biologists, linguists, psychiatrists, psychologists, and others. http://members.aol.com/nonverbal2/diction1.htm
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – United States Department of Health and Human Services offers a section on children and family services, which provides technical assistance, publications, and programs and activities, along with a family guide on how to be a role model. http://www.samhsa.gov
Tools for Relationships includes excerpts from the Tool for Coping Book that identify barriers to healthy interpersonal relationships. This provides exposure to new beliefs, new behaviors, and new procedures to strengthen, clarify, and heal hurting relationships. Additionally, lessons are provided on “normal” behaviors suggested to form strong, healthy adult relationships. See http://www.coping.org/relations/intro.htm.
Translating the Untranslatable is a collection of words from around the globe that defy an easy translation into English. See http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4457805
When Dating is Dangerous is a 5-minute video about unhealthy teen relationships.
The film alternates between youth role-play and fact presentations from
youth and domestic violence counselors. When Dating is Dangerous depicts
the range of harmful relationships from sexual to verbal abuse, gives
advice to friends of those in unhealthy relationships, and offers ways
to evaluate relationships. http://www.access-scat.org/mapped/videos.htm