Article Archive #31
DEMONSTRATING COMMUNICATION SKILLS
We have received questions about demonstrating communication
skills, as more instructors desire to provide live, immediate
demonstrations. In fact, an essential part of teaching a skilled-based
program, such as COUPLE COMMUNICATION involves doing demonstrations.
The demonstrations provide models of the talking and listening
skills, plus the conflict resolving process you want participants
The demonstrations take on added importance with use of skills
mats as tools to learn the systems. While practicing with the
mats is actually simple in concept, experience shows that omitting
a demonstration before doing an exercise that involves the mats
generates unnecessary confusion.
Unless you have a teaching partner, in nearly all the skill
or process demonstrations, you will need a participant (or couple)
from the group to work with you. (The exception occurs when you
Consider the suggestions below to be good at demonstrating:
Interpersonal Communication Programs, Inc.
- Practice ahead: Practice all of the demonstrations with another
person (even if that person does not participate in your workshop).
Then practice with a third person observing you as you demonstrat
with that other person. This gives you more confidence with
showing others how to do something.
- Self-Talk: Once you are confident in demonstrating skills,
for Self-Talk, choose a fresh issue that you do not rehearse
ahead of time. This shows participants how you process issues,
and your ability to share your own experience can be powerful
for participants to witness. Showing, rather than just telling
what to do, establishes your credibility.
- Gather the people: Ask participants to stand and gather around
you when you do a demonstration, because many would not be able
to see if they remain seated. Make sure you have enough room.
- Ask for a volunteer: When your demonstration requires you
to use another person, say to the group that you would like a
volunteer. (This could happen for example, if you are demonstrating
the listening skills and you are teaching by yourself.) Tell
the group that you will be showing the skills, with the assumption
that the volunteer is unskilled. Add that the volunteer simply
responds to the skill or process; you will do the work.
- After giving the above explanation and asking for a volunteer,
if no one steps forward, simply breathe and center, waiting quietly,
and someone usually volunteers.
- Attend to the length of the demonstration so it is long enough
to show the skill or process, yet not so long that it drifts
into focusing on an outcome. Also, try to have the demonstration
itself be about the length of time the participants will each
have when they practice in their small groups.
- Show how to orient: Point out to participants how you have
oriented the mat during the demonstration. With the Awareness
Wheel mat, say it is important for the talker to stand so the
talker can read the title and the other words by looking down.
The mat is to be placed for the talker (and not the observers),
as a kinesthetic grounding, as well as a visual prompt. (With
the Awareness Wheel mat, you can point out the way to orient
the mat AFTER the demonstration, at least for the first time
you demonstrate with it in that group, to prevent overload of
explanation prior to it.)
- Give rationale for orienting: On the other hand, show participants
how to orient the Listening Cycle mat PRIOR to demonstrating
with it. Tell them that part of the reason for the listener
to look down on the title for the listing mat, being sideways
to the skill words, is to provide respect for personal space
between talker and listener. The other part of the reason is
that looking down on the title helps imprint the skills from
a kinesthetic standpoint. If the mat is backwards, the imprinting
will be confused.
- For any other demonstration involving the skills mats, show
how to orient them prior to your demonstrations.
- Demonstrate aligning: Of the peer coaching behaviors, demonstrate
the one for "aligning" following your demonstration
of the Self-Talk exercise with the Information Wheel. (In regard
to the listening skills, instead of demonstrating "prompting,"
simply tell the participants to use a verbal prompt, or audible,
when they coach that skill. The prompting is a little easier
for participants to understand without seeing a demonstration
- Mapping issues: If you teach without a partner, when it comes
to the mapping issues, demonstrate how you will be directing
the couple through the specific steps, beginning with Step 3.
(This means you must ask for a volunteer couple who have completed
their mini-contract with one another, agreeing upon an issue
appropriate to share in the situation.) Tell the couple working
with you and the others in the room that you will be moving them
through the entire process, even though they could have more
to say in a particular step. (It is best to limit this demonstration
to 10 minutes, so others will have practice time.) This demonstration
gives opportunity to emphasize the focus on process, rather than
the issue content or outcome.
- After any of the demonstrations, ask participants what they
have noticed or what questions they may have about what you were
doing. As appropriate, respond to their comments or questions.
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