Welcome to the 6th installment of Communicating with Compassion! This series has focused on three areas of language to help students interact and communicate compassionately.
But what do we mean by compassion?
Compassion is a positive, nonviolent mindset that is thoughtful and shows concern for others. When you have compassion you are taking someone else’s perspectives into consideration and really feeling empathy for them.
Communicating with compassion requires you to make a real effort to understand other people and their needs, thoughts, and emotions. When we pay attention to the words we use as well as how we use them, we strengthen relationships and resolve conflicts.
In my first post: What’s Our Role?, I outlined three areas of intervention to help students develop language that will help them communicate their emotions and interact with others more peacefully. Prior posts have provided ideas and intervention activities for emotional vocabulary and listening skills.
The third area of intervention helps students interact successfully through assertive communication and builds perspective taking skills.
Let’s start with activities and methods for older students.
Many of the activities are part of my resource, Social Language: Expressing Yourself Effectively, on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. I am sharing the worksheets for these activities free of charge — enjoy!
Activity #1: Understanding Communication Styles
With older students, it’s helpful to discuss language style and how the style we choose has an effect on the way other people think and feel about us.
The 3 styles I discuss are aggressive communicators, passive communicators and assertive communicators. You can download student friendly definitions here: Communication Styles_Assertive Communication Visual
Activity #2: Understanding Your Communication Style
If your students are like mine, they have difficulty recognizing their own communication style. This is a quick self- assessment I put together to help older students gain an understanding of how they are communicating with others. There are 10 statements that I ask students to rate on a scale of “Most of the time”,”some of the time” or “almost never”. My students don’t like to be categorized, so rather than saying “you’re an aggressive communicator” or “You’re passive”, I just provided ranges like “you need to practice being more assertive”. You can download a copy of the student self-assessment here: Self Assessment_Assertive Communication
Once we’ve increased self-awareness, it’s time to develop an assertive style of communication.
Activity #3: Using “I Statements”
Most of my kids just seem to yell at someone to “cut it out” or “you’re so annoying”. Their language is nonspecific and doesn’t offer a solution. To address this, one of the first things I like to teach students is how to use an “I Statement”. An “I Statement” clearly describes a situation that is a problem with as few words as possible and does not blame, accuse or criticize.
“I Statements” are a natural expansion of the emotions vocabulary and empathy mapping activities I shared earlier. You can start by using a narrative like this one here:
I feel ____________ (feeling word)
when ___________ (what was said or what happened)
because ____________ (the reason it upset you)
I would like ___________ (what you want, offer a solution).
Right from the start students have the opportunity to utilize their expanded emotional vocabulary by telling how they feel and connecting it to an event. They also are taught to communicate the effect the action had on them and what they would like to have happen to resolve the problem. It’s important to remind students that this conflict resolution is a suggestion, not a demand!
Here’s an example of a completed “I Statement”. Again there is no blaming or criticizing and we try to avoid the use of the word “YOU” because it often causes people to feel defensive and problem solving reaches an impasse. Another benefit of using “I Statements” and teaching students how to sequentially state cause and label effects is that we are heightening awareness to social context cues. You can download a copy of the I Statement outline here: I Statement
Activity#4: Connect Thoughts & Feelings
To further develop perspective taking skills I like to discuss the advantages of being an assertive communicator. I do this by drawing attention to what other people might think about us and how this will make us feel. You can do this by drawing simple thought bubbles and hearts on a whiteboard, paper or even your tabletop (always a favorite with students of all ages)! Some advantages might include that people think you are mature, that you are independent and that you are able to make decisions. When people have those thoughts about us, it probably would make you feel proud and respected. You can download a copy of the worksheet here: Advantages_Assertive Communication_Worksheet
Join me in two weeks when my colleague Danyela Williams shares activities for younger students to develop assertive communication skills. You might want to subscribe to my blog to get notifications of future posts!