Thursday, June 23, 2011

Interpersonal Communication, Self-Esteem, and Criticism

I will be posting lectures on this subject that I wrote for a business communication class.  I think they will be helpful.

3.1. Self-esteem and criticism
3.1.1What is self-esteem
Self-concept – is usually defined as what you think about yourself.  If you were asked to give 20 answers to the following question, “I am ____,” you would answer with either progressive tense verbs (thinking, learning) indicating focus on behaviors, adjectives (attractive, intelligent) indicating description, or a noun (student, parent),indicating roles.  A self-concept is how you define yourself.  An adult should strive to have a realistic self-concept.  You will often be called upon to describe your strengths and weaknesses in terms of your position; you should have enough self-awareness to be able to do so.  You should also have a plan for improving upon your weaknesses.  Of course, weaknesses and strengths are relative.  You probably can’t play basketball well enough be an NBA star, but that is hardly a weakness.  Self-perception and self-image are terms similar to self-concept.
Self-evaluation If I asked you to put a plus or minus by each one of the 20 answers to the statement, “I am ____,” that would be getting at your self-evaluation.  Another term for it would be self-appraisal. 
Self-esteem – Did you have a lot more plusses in #2 than minuses?  Then you have positive self-esteem, because you have chosen the better parts of your personality and character and you evaluate them well.  Self esteem is defined as “the feeling an individual has about his or her self-concept, that is, how well the individual likes and values himself or herself” (Pearson, Nelson, Titsworth, Harter, Human Communication, 2nd edition, McGraw Hill, 2005).
3.1.2Where does self-esteem come from?
First of all, from communication experiences.  What have you been told about yourself as a human being?  As a student?  As a worker?  A parent?  About yourself as a communicator?  I find that one reason my students have such fear in a basic speech course is that they received criticism for an oral performance of some sort in the past. 
Failure and successes.  One of the best ways to overcome communication anxiety is to remember times when you communicated successfully, even if it wasn’t the same kind of communication as the present instance.  
Self-talk.  We play tapes to ourselves that reinforce poor self-esteem. 
Choices - The great thing is we can choose to change the tapes we play to ourselves.

3.1.3  How can it be improved?
Acknowledge that it is a problem.
New experiences, specifically ones where you are successful.  Take every opportunity to improve on your speaking.  Meet new people; if you are in a class with someone new, make it a point to get to know that person.  It’s much like stretching muscles in your body through new exercises.
Changing the self-tapes.  But not with nonsense.  Use realistic messages focusing on specific behaviors.  Stop telling yourself you can’t do what you clearly are capable of doing, whether personally or professionally. 
Changing the messages from others.  Avoid negative people, especially those who are negative towards you for no reason.  They have poor self esteem themselves and are trying to bring you down to feel better.
Focus on what’s holding you back.  What specific beliefs, experiences, or criticisms from the past are making you feel incapable and incompetent?  Is it possible that you are currently not strong in those areas, but you could improve?

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