My personal notes on fixing myself.

becoming socially effective and sharpening personal effectiveness



It’s generally thought that most of the skills we need for adult social interaction and successful relationships are learned during our adolescence. This appears to be true even for SA/SPers. If most of us have the skills, then what’s our problem? The problem is that if we believe we lack these important skills, as we generally do in threatening social situations, we’ll tend to respond inappropriately, if we respond at all. Our resulting communication likely will be less effective. We may also display undesirable mannerisms and seem to have difficulty pulling our conversational weight.

Socially anxious people don’t necessarily have poor interpersonal skills, but when we’re anxious in a social situation, we doubt that we have the social skills to convey the desired message or impression of ourselves to others. Once we believe we lack the necessary skills, we tend to conclude we’re unlikely to make that impression or receive a positive evaluation in a situation where those skills are needed. What the central and overriding factor appears to be is not our lack of interpersonal skills, but our perceptions of our own social inadequacy.

How is communication involved?

Effective communication is a blend of applied observation, behavioral psychology, and common sense. It relies upon preparation and a combination of verbal and nonverbal skills. Without effective communication we can’t convey our intentions and messages; we can’t develop good rapport and relationships; and we can’t understand our work. Our self-presentation image, what we want others to see, is rooted in our communication skills. 

How do we start?

One way to make our communication effective is to spell out clearly, in behavioral terms, what we want to achieve. Once again, our objectives must be realistic, concrete, and specific. They must also be achievable, observable, and measurable. Depending upon our objectives, we may want to concentrate on different aspects of communication, such as:

self-awareness: understanding who and what we are, how we think, and how this is likely to affect our communication.

attitude: developing a more flexible, reality-based and assertive style of communication. It also means a willingness to influence people to behave in desired ways.

knowledge: understanding communication concepts and methods, from definition to analysis to insight. It also means understanding how a message is influenced by the sender’s characteristics, the medium through which it’s conveyed, and the receiver’s characteristics.

skill: learning how to express ourselves, specifically our thoughts and facts, clearly and concisely, and to check that the message has been received and interpreted correctly. It means learning to diagnose, analyze, and solve practical communication problems. It also means learning how to gain such knowledge for the planning, directing, and controlling any project we propose.

There are no specific rules to follow in communication, only principles which apply to all situations and people:

  • think before communicating. Plan what you’ll say and how you’ll say it.
  • decide on the purpose of your communication. Know what is to be achieved. 
  • Take into consideration the situation and circumstances in which the communication is to take place.
  • Make the message complete, specific, using a frame of reference.
  • Make verbal and nonverbal behaviors consistent and congruent.
  • Make the message fit and be appropriate to the receiver. 
  • Describe feelings clearly.
  • Listen carefully to what is said and how it’s said.
  • Provided feedback to the sender of the message.
  • Describe behavior without making evaluations or judgments.
  • Don’t jump to conclusions.
  • Respect the ideas of others.
  • Acknowledge your feelings and those of others.
  • Control your emotions.
  • Use a win/win approach where you and others both get something you want.

Thinking Styles

What we must recognize and appreciate is that there are many ways to approach, describe, and process information. Knowing what differences exist, each person must make an effort to get ideas across in a form the other person can easily grasp. The Whole-brain approach presents a model for explaining and understanding behavior, for looking at ourselves and others, generating awareness and valuing the perceived diversity. Classifying thinking styles provides us a point of common reference that can facilitate communication and collaboration. The process fosters creativity and openness to trying new things.

Active Listening

For listening to be effective we need to

  • listen with interest
  • absorb the content
  • actively grasp the facts and feelings we hear
  • listen for total meaning (content and feeling)
  • note all subtle cues
  • sense underlying meaning
  • intuit what person is really saying (not saying in words)

Acquiring the skills of active listening

Reflecting is feeding back to the speaker the essence of what is being communicated (not simply repeating verbatim what has been said)

Clarifying focuses on the key underlying issues and sorting out confusing, conflicting feelings. When a school mate says, “I hate this class. I wish I didn’t have to be here. Nothing I do satisfies anyone. Even when I do my best writing a report, it’s not appreciated,” we might respond, “it sounds as though you have questions about the value and acceptance of your work in this class. You’d like to continue the class because it allows you to do what you do well, but feel bad it doesn’t reward you for it.”

Interpreting offers possible explanations for certain behaviors or symptoms as a hypothesis not a fact. 

Questioning gets us and others in touch with underlying feelings. To do so we need to ask “what” and “how” questions. They are open-ended and can be responded to in many ways. Example: “How do you feel when someone unexpected comes to the door?” gets more and very different info than if we ask “Why do you feel uncomfortable when someone unexpected comes to the door?” 

Empathizing is sensing the subjective world of the other person and being aware of what the other is experiencing. 

Confronting is challenging some specific behavior. It’s done in such a way that the focus is on the behavior and your feelings about it, and not on the person who does the behaving. Thus, we share our feelings, but avoid evaluation, judgment, and labeling the person. Example: “When I asked you about the library hours, you said ‘Shut up’ and waved your hand at me as if dismissing me. That made me angry. I felt I wasn’t being treated respectfully.” 

When we confront, we:

  • present data upon which inferences are based before stating inferences
  • are clear, specific, and concrete
  • present information that is not fact tentatively, as an inference
  • use I-messages throughout confrontation, being careful, caring, and constructive

 Why image is essential

Effectively getting our message across requires our creating a positive and affirmative image. It should engender audience identification with attitudes, values, interests, and background. We need to establish the perception of similarity because it leads to greater attraction and liking. The greater the similarity, the greater the liking. And the more our audience likes us, the more similar to us they perceive themselves to be. It’s circular and self-reinforcing.

Our image determines how much power and credibility others perceive us to have. It creates the picture we want others to see and act on. An effective image helps us accomplish our communication and other interpersonal goals. Image is the basis of our visibility and credibility. Our success in relationships, work, and in life in general depends upon how others see us and feel about us.

The more interested we are in our listener, and the more we tailor ourselves to that listener, the more interpersonally  attractive we’ll be to them. The more attractive we are, the more socially desirable qualities we’ll be perceived to possess (such as, competence, friendliness, intelligence, and influence). The more socially desirable we’re perceived to be, the greater our impact in our initial encounters. People want to interact with those whom they believe can provide them with what they want.

Image assessment

We need to assess our present image and communication skills by asking ourselves:

  • what image do I want (in concrete, specific terms)?
  • what image am I currently projecting?
  • what elements make up the image I want?
  • what do I need to do to create the image I want?
  • how am I getting my message across at present?
  • what do I need to do to project the image I want?

Fantasize or brainstorm all the different ways you could create the (a) visibility and (b) credibility of a positive image.

  • Do any of these methods create both visibility and credibility for you? Which ones?
  • Where do you talk informally with individuals, besides your family and office colleagues?
  • What do you do when you talk with those people?
  • What results do you get?
  • What results do you want?

Now go back over your answers and reduce each to its key words. These words are the basis of planning your image change.

Planning image change exercise

If your image assessment suggests you need to improve your image, answer the following questions as fully as you can. Be specific and concrete.

  • What presentation or image elements do you want to work on?
  • How do you plan to work on them?

Now pick five image behaviors you want to work on. Set up a chart like your Recovery Timeline, with “Goal,” “Action,” “Deadline,” and “Results.” Under “Goal,” list the behaviors that need work. Under “Action,” describe how you want to change your behavior. Put down a specific date, “Deadline,” by which you want to have this accomplished. When you have met your deadline, note what happened as a result of your actions. Post this chart where you can frequently refer to it and monitor your progress.


Goal: make eye contact
Action: write down when I don’t; have a friend tell me when I’m not
Deadline: 2 months
Results: looking at others occasionally in conversations

Grabbing attention

A first impression is made up of several elements, most of which are nonverbal.

Confident people and those in authority appear not to monitor the behavior of those around them the e same way as low-status people. They look more at the other when they’re speaking than when they’re listening. They also tend to look at others at strategic moments. It’s better to assume the role of someone in control. We should begin our conversations with direct eye contact to open the communication line then smile to show our friendliness and interest. When we start to speak, we need to look away to maintain our speaking role. As we finish, we look back so that we end with direct eye contact to signal we’re done. Then we conclude with a smile.

Image behavior exercise

Stand in front of a mirror or have yourself videotaped as you respond to interactions with others. If you’re doing this by yourself, make a list of questions and comments others are likely to make in an interaction. You can also do this for job interviewing. Assess and make note of your nonverbal behavior.

  • Do you make eye contact?
  • How do you stand?
  • How much do you gesture?
  • How often do you use facial expressions, only for appropriate emphasis or all the time?
  • Are your expressions appropriate?
  • Do you frown or wince?
  • How assured do you look?
  • How relaxed do you look?
  • How enthusiastic do you look?
  • Is there anything you do repeatedly that has no real purpose?

Applying public speaking image tips:

  • make sure your speech has a beginning, middle, and end
  • write it the way you’ll speak it. Written and spoken languages have a different cadence and tone.
  • practice in front of a mirror to become comfortable with phrasing, pace, and gestures.
  • practice enunciating more clearly.
  • begin with confidence
  • scan your audience occasionally as if you’re including all of them as your listener. If you can see them, look at their foreheads rather than their eyes.
  • talk to the audience.
  • breathe slowly
  • speak at a slow-to-moderate rate, no rushing
  • speak as if talking to friends
  • pause for emphasis
  • concentrate on the ideas you want to convey, not on the precise words
  • reframe your nervousness as energy


Chapter 9

What is assertiveness? It’s another name for having standards and limits on what is acceptable and tolerable in our relationships with other people. It’s our determination to be firm and enforce those standards and limits. Those with social anxiety are more concerned about getting approval and not being evaluated negatively. This makes setting our boundaries, standing up for ourselves, and asserting our rights in an appropriate manner very difficult. When we’re unable to be firm, our behavior tends to create confusion and friction, thus making interactions with others even more arousing, frustrating, and unsatisfactory.

Assertive Scripts Exercise

List situations in which you have experienced discomfort because you didn’t do or say what you really wanted to. Or because you felt compelled to justify your behavior. For example, what might you have done if someone standing beside you in the elevator began to smoke which bothered you greatly? As you remember these experiences write an assertive response to each of them:

  • What was the public discomfort?
  • What I said or did?
  • What I want to say or do next time?

How to assess assertiveness

Being assertive requires first that we know what we want to be assertive about. We have to pick our issues then determine what’s the minimum that’s acceptable and the maximum that’s tolerable. What are the factors which brought us to this position? We have to understand and feel comfortable with the logic that brought us to this decision. Once we know what we want and feel determined to achieve it, we need to start thinking in terms of how to convey our message. This means thinking in “I-messages” rather than “You-messages.” Specifically, we should:

  • state what you see (describe the other person’s behavior objectively.) “When you did…”
  • state how other’s behavior concretely affects you. “The effects are…”
  • state how you feel about it. “I feel angry…”
  • state what you want to happen or make a suggestion. “I want…,” or “Perhaps…”

Look back at the incidents you addressed in your assertive scripts. Did you respond in I-messages? If not, rework your responses in the I-message four-stage format. Rehearse the answers at least once a day so they become a natural reaction for you.

Simplifying systematic assertiveness skills

Broken record is the calm repetition of what we want. The technique teaches persistence in our achieving our goals. Reinforcing our determination, it also allows us to ignore the other person’s irrelevant logic, manipulation, or baiting. Example: responding calmly and pleasantly with “I’m sure you feel that way, but I want…” We repeat this phrase like a broken record for other attempts of manipulation  in the same conversation.

Fogging is calmly accepting the probability that there may be some truth to what another says about us. At the same, it allows us to be the ultimate judge of what we do. Example, “I understand how you might feel that way, but…” then add the broken record phrase here. This technique shows empathy with the other person while allowing us to receive any criticism without becoming defensive or anxious. Other fogging phrases are “That may be true,” “I understand that” and “I’m sure you believe that.” These phrases acknowledge and reflect what is being said.

Negative assertion is the calm acceptance of our own errors or failings by our agreeing with the criticism, at least in spirit. This allows us to look at our negatives without becoming unduly anxious and defensive. At the same time, our agreeing with this accurate assessment will reduce the critic’s hostility and anger.

For example, if Sarah underestimated the amount of time needed to finish a project and her boss is angry because of high-level demands for the final report, her boss might say, “You really messed up royally, and now my butt’s in a sling.” Using negative assertion, she might respond, “You’re right. I really under-estimated the time to finish the project.” She acknowledges the element of truth in her own frame of reference, but doesn’t buy into the hyperbole.

Negative inquiry is prompting our critics to tell us more of what’s bothering them. This allows our critics to be more assertive and express honest negative feelings. It also allows us to seek out critical info more comfortably to open up communication channels. If a spouse says to us, “You spend all your time job hunting,” we might respond, “What is there about my spending a lot of time job hunting that bothers you?” Then the spouse may admit frustration, “You’re buried in letters and classified ads all the time.” Then we could ask, “What is it about my spending so much time with paperwork that’s bad?” Each inquiry gets us closer to the underlying problem. 


self-esteem initially comes from

what parental figures accepted and respected
what limits they defined and enforced
to what degree they allowed your independent action

Our self-esteem depends on how we evaluate success and failure. We become the label of our actions. If we label failure as “bad” and success as “good,” we’ll see not achieving our goal as “bad” and ourselves as a failure. This type of thinking has a strong impact on our behavior. It limits what we’re willing to try and to what degree we’ll be open to growth.

Low self-esteem means that we tend to magnify trivial mistakes and imperfections. We make these things symbols of our feelings of inadequacy or worthlessness. We see our self-image as depending upon the approval of others. We have feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, anxiety, and a sense of being unfit.

Raising self-esteem

  • Make positive statements about yourself. Compose a list of “I-statements” which reflect how you’d like to describe yourself, such as “I’m confident talking to people I know” or “I do my work well.” Read this list aloud to yourself often. Add new ones.
  • Stop making negative statements about yourself:  When you hear yourself saying something negative about yourself, say, “Stop!” Reverse the statement from “I am a failure” to “I can be a success in X.” Say the new statement aloud.
  • Practice imaging: Design a mental picture of yourself in an actual, positive situation. Run this mental “film” in times of stress and whenever you relax.
  • Check your expectations: Is your behavior based on your own sense of competence and worth or on your perception of other people’s expectations of you? Remember only your own expectations, when grounded in self-love and self-acceptance, can be met.

Raising self-efficacy

To raise self-efficacy we need to address how to access and interpret information and improve our coping skills. Of the many ways to do it therapeutically performance accomplishment is the single most powerful source of efficacy. This is because it’s vivid, self-relevant, and provides first-hand experience with success or failure. Increased self-efficacy leads to success which in turn, increases self-efficacy.


Tomorrow, chapters 12, 13, and 14 then I need to return this book to the library and focus on my notes!


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This entry was posted on November 24, 2013 by .
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