Day one of teaching theatre and the first thought that crossed my mind was: I need to find a way to help young performers understand the foundation of human emotion and expression with masks covering the majority of their face. No pressure.
And as those young performers sat there, staring me down over their masks, another thought crossed my mind: It’s just as much about being the right person as it is about finding the right person.
Teaching them about human expression meant meeting them right where they were – tired, grumpy, fidgeting, on a sugar rush – in hopes that they would do the same for each other in every exercise performed. So when they left the classroom, maybe they would be a little closer to “being the right person” in the real world.
Since that first class I’ve uncovered a lot of important information about communicating effectively and I wanted to share some key points so we can all get a little closer to “being the right person” everyday.
Flip The Script.
Our society has lost the art form of “agreeing to disagree” – I look at the division today and wish we still practiced that level of respect. A genuine and intentional conversation is all about perspective, and I don’t mean your own. You need to be willing to step inside someone else’s shoes and see life through their eyes. It does not mean you have to agree with what they say, but it does allow you to have a deeper understanding and respect for their perspective. Have you ever talked to someone that always leads the conversation back to themselves and bulldozes sensitive topics? Did you enjoy your conversation with them? Me either. Please don’t be that person.
Respond, Don’t React.
“I feel” statements are the most crucial part of a productive and intentional conversation. We use an exercise in my classroom in which one student makes a statement, and their scene partner responds with: “What you’re saying makes me feel _____”. They fill the blank in with an emotion the other student’s statement evoked in them. In real world application, this means we must breathe before we jump back at someone. Rather than attack with aggressive phrases, a more effective form of expression would be to explain that someone’s comment hurt you or made you feel angry. This might sound elementary, but it allows you to shift from being defensive to inviting someone to see things from your perspective.
Listen, Listen, Listen.
Do you ever find yourself in a heated mirror conversation? (It’s fine if it’s just me on that one.) I talk to myself all the time – it’s how I process my anxiety and emotions. While it’s a great outlet to work through tensions and frustrations, it’s important to note that during those mirror conversations I am talking at someone and not actively listening. If we do not actively listen during conversation, there is no point to interact at all. A conversation is an exchange of ideas – a give and take. If you want to be heard, you must also practice listening.
If you work to be the “right person” in your communication and relationships, you will start to see the world differently. Responding with clarity, changing your perspective, and actively listening are key components to enhancing your ability to express your thoughts in a healthy way.
Communicating in an effective and intentional way improves your self esteem, your emotional intelligence, and your ability to pull back from unhealthy relationships. Be the right person and the right things in life will become clearer to you.
It’s just as much about being the right person as it is about finding the right person.