MERLOT Voices

Putting Educational Innovations into Practice.

Finding new friends can be a painful process. At least once in our lives we have to move from one place to another. Switching houses is just part of a problem. But if you are moving to a totally new place, you have to change an educational institution, too. Some people are looking forward to seeing new places and meeting new friends. But there are some that think about first day in new school, college, or university, and their hearts stop. For them, there can't be a bigger torture than walking down the hallway in a crowd of strangers, and desperately looking for at least one familiar face.

An atmosphere of comfort has a huge impact on academic excellence. If you feel safe and sure, you can easily concentrate on your study. But if you feel yourself a lonely fish in a sea of unfamiliar people, you will be searching for a way out, and it might have a negative effect on your work.

Let's examine the situation together. New people are not like old friends. You don't know enough background information about them, and sometimes you feel unsure if you can ask some questions, or it will confuse your interlocutors. The first impression is very important. And you are afraid that you may seem rude, indifferent, suspicious...

Try to analyze yourself when you are talking. You are listening to yourself, aren’t you? Moreover, you are enjoying yourself when talking. The same thing is with other people. This is why becoming a good listener will make you successful. What are the characteristics of a good listener, and why do you need to be one? A good listener is always able to melt the ice of the conversation, because he follows it and feels his interlocutor. It's easy to learn to listen to other people.

First of all, you are not the only one who has feelings. A person standing in front of you can also breathe, touch, feel. And if when he sends you a message, try to decode it. How? By simply putting yourself into his shoes. For example, your new acquaintance tells you that he’s not ready for a Math test. Instead of saying something like, "Yeah, it happens sometimes" (which shows your indifference), you can ask, "Why? Did you have problems with studying?" You will find out that your interlocutor had to go to a competition. And this is already some new information that you can use.

Two mistakes are usually made in this type of a conversation. First one is a desire to instruct, or give useless advices. Here’s how it happens:

HE: "I just flunked my English quiz".

YOU: "Well, you should've studied more".

He knows it! But he has probably got an explanation. And one of the reasons why he tells you about his failure is because he wants to share his worries. By giving instructions you show that you are smarter. That’s not how good friends act. Second mistake is in restating a problem.

HE: "I've got an A in Biology".

YOU: "Yeah. It seems like you are really good at it".

By retelling his remark you show lack of interest. And also cut off your further conversation, because not much can be added to your answer.
 
When talking to somebody, you have a second, imaginary, conversation - in your mind. This conversation distracts you. By concentrating on an unreal image of yourself, you set that horrible blank expression on your face, and lose the thread of a real dialogue. And it can frustrate anyone. If you want to fail a discussion, just show your interlocutor that you are not interested. Or that you don't listen. But if you want to be successful, react: ask questions, give comments, show interest and be interested, and the imaginary conversation will be forgotten.
 
A good listener will also know how not to become an interrogator.

YOU: "Why are you looking so confused?"

HE: "I overslept."

YOU: "What happened yesterday?"

HE: "I had to go to bed later, than usually."

If you see that your questions give space for a big answer, but the interlocutor gives short replies, than try to do the following:

1. Lean forward, your arms not crossed

2. Ask a question, but by stressing the last word: “You overslept beca-a-u-use…”

3. Now lean backwards.

And he will tell you that his relatives came to visit. They have a little girl that he had to baby-sit. That's why he had to go to bed later, overslept, and now looks at everything as a man who landed on the moon. But you gave him an opportunity to share his problems. By leaning forward you showed that you are concerned about him. When leaning backwards, you gave him an opportunity to talk. When he is talking, you can also try to nod slightly. You will see by yourself that the result can be extremely positive.

Learn to value people's opinions and thoughts. Learn to listen, for it is truly an important skill. It will help you to make new acquaintances stronger, establish good relationships with your teachers/professors, and be successful in future.

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