After developing accurate awareness of available information, effective communication requires an ability to organise and process relevant information to plan an appropriate response.
The appropriate response depends on the purpose or intention, what one is trying to achieve in the interaction. There may be any number of purposes. For young people needing assistance to develop communication skills these purposes commonly revolve around being appropriately assertive in making requests or declining encouragements from peers to participate in problem behaviours, expressing understanding of or empathy for others, resolving conflict, accepting responsibility, and offering help to solve problems.
Organising information may involve learning how to (i) clarify intentions; (ii) identify if wants and expectations of self and others are compatible or conflictual; (iii) identify information gaps and formulate questions, or (iv) use self and other awareness to assess when it is appropriate to use empathic vs sympathetic statements (Bedell & Lennox, 1997).
Instructional techniques may include (i) describing how to use the thought-feeling-behaviour (TFB) circle to identify and fill in missing information and (ii) demonstrating how to formulate questions about other peoples thoughts, intentions, judgements.
Real past events or imaginary vignettes that provide partial information can be used to structure guided practice in analysing situations (e.g. use the TFB circle to identify what further information is needed, construct questions, identify possible compromises, and examine decision options).
Exploration of imaginary or dramatised vignettes or actual events, with a practitioner or in a group setting provides an opportunity for immediate continuous feedback about the accuracy of ones interpretation of information and alternative viewpoints about appropriate interpretations and responses (e.g. watching television drama together or speculative gossip about the dramas of everyday life).
When bringing planned communication skills to the level of real life practice, clients can be asked to (i) record clear aims for their important communications with significant others (e.g. What do I want out of this exchange with my father?) and (ii) identify the types of expressions that are most likely to be successful in achieving these aims.
- Another key process underpinning social anxiety is avoidance of threatening situations and the use of other safety behaviours that are intended to prevent feared catastrophes from eventuating (Hodson, et al., 2008). Fear and avoidance of talking in socially threatening situations is a very common result, particularly expressing thoughts and feelings that the person believes may displease the other person, leading to negative evaluation and rejection. This is a key process underpinning lack of assertiveness.
- Taking time out to organise and process information in order to plan goal directed expressions is a critical opportunity to identify information processing biases, distorted cognitions, and safety behaviours that may interfere with formulation of effective communications.