Monday, July 7, 2014

Connecting the components of peer to peer interaction to crack life’s cryptic communication code!

On Wednesday 25th June 2014, the fabulously charismatic Maheshwari Jani hotfooted it to SHAFA HOME, Delhi to present her seventh session with our residents on the topic of establishing an effective peer to peer communication. The session lasted for two hours in which all residents and staff members attended the insightful class.
Maheshwari’s winning interaction style never fails to wow the socks off us... Despite the intense summer humidity, she magically roused our half-asleep residents out of their drowsy state and immediately set them to task! After all, we all know there’s no time for dilly-dallying in any of Mahi’s sessions!...The question of the day was: How can we best interact with our peers? Today we would be investigating how different components of linguistics (speech) and paralinguistics (body language) when coupled together establish an individual’s unique communication style.
The resident’s first exercise involved them writing a positive and working point for each other on the piece of paper pinned to their backs. The set up of the exercise was such that members would receive personal feedback anonymously. This ensured no resentment would be generated as a cause of the activity. Then after receiving feedback, individual residents were called to the front of the hall and were instructed to verbalise their positive comment with full intent, force and conviction. We could notice whether the resident was being true to himself through his body positioning; if it was square, strong and grounded, we could all realise he honestly felt the positive quality shined within him too. She then progressed to one-on-one consultations where she empathetically and compassionately explained how they could improve in certain aspects of their behaviour. Her voice tone was low, soft and caring. This activity greatly added to their self-confidence and empowerment. Maheshwari’s knack of engaging our boys is second to none!  
Communication wins people over or makes them run a mile from us; it’s all a matter of how we choose to conduct ourselves and relate to our peers. Do we want to be open and positive? Or closed and sullen? This was the first golden rule that Maheshwari Ji made clear to us. Our body language gives us away and it is something we need to be 100% aware of constantly. Prior to recovery, addicts have that unfortunate ability to repel people away by their mere presence even before they manage to open their mouths...This is the sheer power that body language fact, 70% of communication is done non-verbally and 30% is accomplished through speech. It’s a known fact that you can judge a person’s personality within the first 30 seconds of meeting them without needing to speak to them...armed with this fact, Maheshwari Ji set the residents to their second task!
We were asked to spread the love...everyone knows that free hugs never go amiss at SHAFA HOME! Residents meandered round the ‘Asha Grah’ and embraced their fellow brothers. Now, the beauty of this exercise was that it immediately obvious that emotional intents cannot be faked easily. A subtle application of touch/pressure (paralinguistic components of communication) can distinguish whether a resident meant his intent wholeheartedly or was being fake. Emotional intent shapes the words that eventually leave our lips. If our intents are false and flaky then inevitably our actions aren’t going to be particularly robust to our purpose either. For any recovering addict, a strong inside is reflected by his outward composure. For our residents, a key goal of recovery is establishing a honest and decisive mentality – making positive decisions then firmly sticking to them and carrying them out. To achieve this, their words and actions must synchronise in order to produce this infallibility of character. This is what will make them a success in the outside world!
Maheshwari’s following task involved our residents enacting four different situations; the first involved two friends meeting after a long separation period, the second involved the giving of mopping directions, the third involved a neighbour finding out his motorcycle seat got burned and the fourth involved a typical SHAFA senior-to-younger peer ‘dealing’. Giggles of glee resonated within the ‘Asha Greh’ as residents enjoyed in the theatrical presentations of our enrapturing and entertaining boys. They have incredibly imaginative minds!   
Behind the fun, frolics and “draamebaazi” there was an insightful message conveyed regarding the day’s topic. Receptivity, awareness and emotional intelligence are all very important factors which stimulate healthy dialogue between people. This activity allowed our residents’ sensitive streak to shine through and their aptitude at deciphering non-verbal and verbal ‘feedback’ cues as well as knowing what words were appropriate to use in each respective situation. ‘Perception of Position’ is an NLP term which describes this; healthy and effective communication requires an individual to regulate their body language and their speaking style (vocal modulation, voice-pitch and tone) as he or she consciously adapts to their surroundings and company.
The very fact that our residents are able to pick up on these cues and thus successfully fan and channel the direction of the conversation to the natural apex of ‘compromise and resolution’ is a fantastically positive sign of their emotional growth ascertained within treatment so far! The staff were resoundingly impressed and pleasantly relieved that their residents were slowly slowly gleaning something positive from TC life are implementing their newly discovered skills into practice.  
In the final activity of the day, Maheshwari Ji became the ‘Queen of the Jungle’; fearful roars boomed from this lioness catching four poachers trespassing into her kingdom. Our four boys were quite startled by her vibrantly vivacious vocalisations. Some were a little frightened to be quite honest! They had to reason coolly and calmly with the lioness. This exercise tested how well our residents could keep their cool despite being faced an emotionally uncomfortable and difficult situation. Reasoning, assertion and negotiation skills were examined here. We are proud to say our boys emerged as verbal virtuosos! Many of them have a natural flair at self-expression and a captivating penchant for words!

Today’s session was a dazzling success showing that our residents are indeed capable of successfully “assembling the components of peer to peer interaction to crack the communication code” through their empathetic, compassionate and emotionally intelligent natures. They shone like stars this, so its fair to say treatment is clearly working its magic on them. The way we communicate makes or breaks our charm and magnetism. Through awareness and willingness to break through communicative barriers we can aver our ability to fortify our social connections with others. From all of us at SHAFA HOME, our sincere thanks go to Ms. Maheshwari Jani for another marvellous and informative session! 

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