Here at Parlance the core of what we do is communicating. I’ve been able to learn from several authorities in communications fields. In the new I’ll bring you interviews and insights from the experts.
Recently I had the opportunity to interview psychotherapist Helene Goldberg. Helene taught a course in assertiveness I recently completed.
Your practice focuses on helping people change negative beliefs about themselves. How does that tie into the assertiveness course?
People hold negative internal messages. Some people think of those messages as tapes that play negative ideas over and over. These messages we tell ourselves color our interactions. “Each person interprets what is being said through the prism of their own tapes.” The interpretation may be correct or a misinterpretation. “I saw a client in my private practice. He talked about an interaction he had. What he heard was filtered through the negative beliefs and messages he had about himself and then he could only interpret the interaction as being negative.”
When something happens to you, “those negative feelings stay with you and color your future interactions.”
What are the biggest problem people have communicating?
The biggest problem people have communicating is listening. “Listening is not just hearing the words it’s not making assumptions about the meaning of the words.” Listening, but being able to recognize and hear beyond the filters and negative assumptions we have about how people think of us.
People are quick to make judgments about what they think the other person will say. People “listen for what they expect to hear, for what will reinforce their beliefs.” People interpret the other person’s words negatively because they expect to hear them that way.
Communicating can be difficult for a lot of people. What can we do to make it easier?
“We are our own worst critics.” We need to become more compassionate toward ourselves. When we are gentler with ourselves, we have less anxiety around our preconceived negative beliefs. Then communication becomes easier.
In your class we spent time discussing our past experiences. Why is it useful to discuss past experiences?
“Because of the negative beliefs that come from the past, most people aren’t aware of how much they carry with them in terms of believe systems about themselves and the world. They don’t “choose” to believe all of these negative thoughts. But if they understand where the beliefs came…from that is a big piece of the puzzle.” People need to understand their pasts to learn a new thought process. Understanding the past also helps us feel compassionate towards ourselves “Change is difficult for most people.” There is so much to be discovered about our beliefs. Understanding where our beliefs came from helps to keep us from getting discouraged while trying to make changes.
The class seemed to be divided in half: people who wanted to work on issues in their careers and people who wanted to work on personal issues. Is there a difference in communicating for work and in personal situations?
Many people get very focused in on one person that can make their lives difficult. Many of us may have had this experience in life. However, we cannot change other people. All we can change is ourselves. So the more we see patterns in our behaviors the more we can practice new approaches to dealing with difficult people. Even if one person seems to be the most difficult, our interactions with that person could be held under a light and we may see what we do to make the problem worse. That can then lead to seeing the bigger picture of how we interrelate to others.
Each of us brings our same set of assumptions to every interaction. Social problems will likely be mirrored at work. For some people, it’s just safer and easier to talk about social issues rather than work or vice versa. One person in a class came to work on a personal issue. He couldn’t see the part he played in that issue. What I noticed talking to him was that he does the same thing at work. With help he was able to see how he reacted similarly in both situations.
People should leave the class seeing a pattern that they bring to every interaction. The healthier you are the more you see patterns of how you interact with everyone. As we get healthier we change our reactions to people. Relationships can be unequal and are not always healthy. As one person changes the way they interact with another person the relationship may change. Unfortunately, the other person may be invested in keeping the relationship the way it is.
When I told people I was taking an assertiveness course, they were surprised. One person said assertiveness was a 70s thing she didn’t realize it was still being taught. How has assertiveness changed over the years?
“I took an assertiveness course for the first time in 1978. The class was all women. In the 70s and 80s women were still trying to find their voice. It was still the time of Gloria Steinem and Ms Magazine and the tail end of women’s liberation. Women standing up to men was still a hot issue. It was about women getting their anger out and the differences between men and women.”
I don’t believe it is like that anymore. Assertiveness is still a basic difficulty for many people – men and women. People have trouble speaking their mind. The core of the issue is believing in yourself. People recognize where they don’t speak up and the idea of assertiveness kind of clicks with them. Assertiveness isn’t about gender anymore. It still meets a need. We are all learning to be better at communicating.
I could have called the course anything- believing in yourself, speaking your mind. Assertiveness still triggers something in people. Every time we offer the course people sign up. It’s about people realizing they have needs and the right to speak their mind.
It’s about speaking up and asking for what you need. Be compassionate toward yourself as you learn to communicate more effectively with the people in your life. Be aware that when you make changes it may change your relationships. Listen to the other person as much as possible without jumping to conclusions.
Helene Goldberg is a psychotherapist in private practice in Needham, MA, with over 20 years experience. She works with individuals, couples and groups. She offer an interview, at no charge, for people to come in and find out more about me and how she works and if she would be the right therapist for them. Find Helene here.