Dialogue needs maturity

Looking around on campus, it seems one of the greater problems among the student body is the lack of an effective communication style. This is a problem that is far more dire than those who have a total lack of communication skills.

People are often aggressive or passive in their communication style, and both present a severe hindrance to public discourse. The aggressive individuals try to influence others in a fashion that fails to respect others’ personal boundaries. I think it is this type of individual who reigns supreme on campus – most commonly seen in the form of one who is "invincibly correct." When they try to influence others, their approach comes off as very imposing.

The point of discourse is to have an engaging meeting of ideas so that a truth is left standing. Those who engaged in the discourse would have learned something and left the battlefield more enlightened. Right or wrong, they all leave the same way – with something gained.

When pride is factored into any discourse, the result is often two or more individuals who are frustrated, angry and don’t learn anything apart from contempt for each other. Does this have any place in the academic atmosphere of our college?

Another common communication archetype that develops is the passive individual. These usually fail to defend their personal boundaries against the aggressive communicators and thus may allow them to harm or influence them inappropriately. The true tragedy of this archetype lies not so much in their inability to defend themselves, but in their lack of contributing.

Then there is the third and rare archetype, the assertive communicator. This archetype is one that must be learned. They are individuals who express themselves with the zeal of the aggressive communicators but take precautions in respecting other’s boundaries. Unlike the passive communicators, the assertive individuals defend themselves in a unique, effective and proper manner.

How to go about maturing into an assertive communicator is a long, hard process, because it can only be learned through habit.

Smile more. This simple thing can make or break the first impression; there are too many apathetic faces on campus.

When discussing different viewpoints, don’t listen defensively. When we argue, many of us have an awful tendency to "listen" in rebuttal mode; we automatically profile the other as wrong and devise counter arguments for the sake of winning the argument. Respect yourself and others – a maxim that somehow escapes the majority of us.

Being an assertive communicator is vital for public discourse and helps the quality of life for those who practice it. In a campus brimming with diverse social life and intellectual atmosphere, it is absolutely essential that we mature into assertive communicators and cultivate the minds of others as well as our own.

Hayes, a philosophy freshman, can be reached via [email protected]

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