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Interpersonal Communication

October 11, 2009

Today while I was doing some research into different graduate programs I came across a master’s program that I had never heard of before. In fact, I am surprised it even exists: Interpersonal Communication.

Here at the paper we have misunderstandings and miscommunications pretty frequently. I always joke that we are mass communicators, not interpersonal communicators.

I actually think I am good at interpersonal communication as long as I’m not too tired, hungry, sad, angry or confused. But, then, isn’t everyone? I do know a few over-arching no-nos about interpersonal communication. I also know what pushes my buttons.

For example, I was once able to go to a hostage negotiation training class – back when I worked at the air base. They taught us that a person who takes a hostage has usually had some catalyzing event that has caused them to be in the mind-frame where they would take a hostage. They are usually very emotional and haven’t been able to find a way to cope with the emotion. So, they are acting out.

The number one thing they taught us to never do was to tell the hostage-taker to calm down. Any form of that sentiment makes the person feel like the negotiator thinks their plight is insignificant. The result will usually be and escalation of some sort.

After taking the class I started to realize that every conflict has an element of this. Whether it be a fight with your significant other, or fighting about politics among friends. There is an emotional element to every conflict that can be exacerbated by telling someone to calm down (or some version of that sentiment: settle down, stop freaking out, what’s the big deal, etc.).

I have also noticed that when someone tells me to calm down it pisses me off.

It seems like common sense to me now. Or, how about this one:

“I’ve been in a really bad mood for the last few days and I can’t figure out why.”

“Yeah, I know.”

That really didn’t help. In fact, I think it was kind of a mean response. I wasn’t expecting sympathy, but well…now we’re done talking. Yeah that pushed my button.

There are more, but I can’t think of anything right now…and I think it’s couch time.

How about you all, what really pushes your buttons (and I mean the big read “You didn’t just say that to me, did you?” button) when you’re communicating with someone?

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