PERSONAL SKILLS

H
ealthy sexuality requires the development and use of specific personal and interpersonal skills. These skills will help a young person to identify and live according to his/her values, make effective decisions and take responsibility for them, and communicate effectively with family, friends and other members of the society. Some of the skills we’ll be looking at include values clarification, positive self-esteem, goal-setting and decision-making, communication, as well as assertiveness and negotiation skills. Click on the links below to learn about these skills:

Values clarification Values are strong beliefs or feelings we have about important issue such as friendship, money, parenting, sex, drugs, gender roles, etc. Our values guide our decisions and behaviour. Our values are influenced by our family, religion, culture and lately the media, which has increasingly become an important factor in deciding the values we adopt. Kids and young people spend much more hours watching television and listening to music than their parents did while growing up, and the messages they get are increasingly contradicting traditional values, causing young people to question them and leading to conflicts with parents.

Because of the significance of values in our lives, it is important to clarify to ourselves what our convictions are about the numerous issues we deal with in life. Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to determine your values.

  • Values should be freely chosen after the alternatives and their consequences have been evaluated.
  • Children receive most of their values from parents, other family members, community, cultural and religious teachings, the media and from peers.
  • Members of the same family may have different values.
  • Friends may have different values.
  • People who feel strongly about their values often share and affirm them publicly.
  • To behave according to one’s values can be challenging, but usually results in feelings of pride and positive self-esteem.
  • People who try to behave according to their values feel good about themselves, while a person who behaves contrary to his/her own values may feel guilty or uncomfortable.
  • There are consequences for behaving according to or against one’s values.
  • Relationships are usually stronger if the two people share similar values.

Self-esteem is the judgment or feeling we have about ourselves. It could be high or low; is forever changing, and is a result of accumulation of events. Someone with high self- esteem recognises his or her own strength and skills, improves them and can accept successes and achievements. Such an individual relates easily with others and feels secure in social relationships. An individual with low self-esteem on the other hand, is somewhat “anti-social”, lacks confidence and sees challenges as problems too much to cope with. One may have a low self-esteem, if he or she is constantly ignored, laughed at, disliked by peers or is shy and has trouble with intimacy. Because our self-esteem is so important in determining what we do with our lives, it is necessary to have positive self-esteem. Following are some important stuff to keep in mind about self-esteem:

  • Each individual has unique and special strengths.
  • It is alright to feel good about oneself.
  • A stable and loving family positively influences one’s self-esteem.
  • With love and support, any person can feel valued and special.
  • Low self-esteem can make decision-making difficult.
  • The way you feel about yourself has a great deal to do with how you express yourself through activities and work.
  • Frustrating situations can cause low self-esteem.

Everyone should set goals for their lives, because it is an important part of life-planning. Goals provide a guide for the decisions we make and gives meaning and direction to our activities. Following are some stuff to keep in mind about goal-setting:

  • Goals help to clarify our values.
  • Many people find it difficult to set goals for the future.
  • Goal-setting is an individual responsibility and involves making decisions and taking risks.
  • Making informed choices (i.e. after you have checked the facts, considered the consequences) reduces risk-taking and enhances achievement of goals.
  • A sense of accomplishment comes with achieving set goals.
  • There are societal rewards for the achievement of goals.

Tips for successful goal-setting

  • Know exactly what you set out to achieve.
  • It is easier to accomplish goals if you take one step at a time.Set time limits to have your goals achieved.
  • Be determined to achieve your goals by directing energy and resources towards achieving them .

Sometimes, one can take a wrong turn or get a little lost, but do not be discouraged, because you can always adjust your course!

Everyone should set goals for their lives, because it is an important part of life-planning. Goals provide a guide for the decisions we make and gives meaning and direction to our activities. Following are some stuff to keep in mind about goal-setting:

  • Decision-making is a skill that can be improved.
  • People make decisions in different ways: by impulse, by making the same decision friends make, by letting someone else decide, and by testing the choices.
  • To make wise decisions, you need to have adequate information about each choice and must consider these choices.
  • Parents and other adults can help young people with making decisions.
  • Alcohol and other drugs often interfere with good decision-making.
  • The best decision is usually one that is consistent with one’s values and does not involve risking one’s health or breaking the law.
  • You are responsible for the consequences of your decisions.
  • Many of our decisions affect other people.
  • Evaluating past decisions can help one learn from his/her own experiences and not repeat mistakes.
  • Some decisions have legal implications.

Ever been in a gathering and you needed to say something? But you don’t know how? Or you met a new friend and you want to express your thoughts and you are lost for words? Everyone wants to be heard and understood and it’s nearly impossible to go through a day without the use of communication. Any task that requires more than one person can only be successfully completed with communication thus it is essential and important to know how to communicate effectively

Communication can be defined as the giving and receiving of a message, information or idea in such a way that it is understood by both parties. It is the act of sending information from a source (sender) which brings about a response from the receiver. Also, it is also the process of making one’s feelings known to others. It can also be a way in which individuals send unintended messages to other people unconsciously; without even realising that they have done so.

Methods of communication vary depending on the situation or action needed to be carried out. There is Verbal communication which involves the exchange of ideas, thoughts or feelings through spoken or written words while Non-Verbal communication involves expression without using the spoken or written word but rather through pictures or in the form of body language/actions such as gestures and facial expressions. Good communication involves active listening, use of simple language and use of matching verbal and non-verbal behaviour.

In addition, different types of communication may be better suited to some situations than others. For example, written communication may be less suitable to express emotions as it lacks non-verbal cues. Without non-verbal communication, it can be difficult to gauge how another person is feeling. Some people may also prefer one form of communication over another, such as preferring to discuss something face-to-face, rather than over the phone.

WHAT ARE SKILLS NEEDED FOR BETTER COMMUNICATION?

Communication is not a mystery. Everyone can learn basic skills to communicate more effectively. These include:

  1. Active Listening Skills: Deep down, everyone wants to be heard without being judged or interrupted. We’ve all had the feeling at one time or the other that someone we are talking to is not really paying attention. So it’s easy to understand how important it is to be a good listener. Listening skills help us to build friendship, to be trusted by people, and to get the right information to make good decisions.
  2. Use the “I” statement so that you can express yourself perfectly.
  3. Be bold and direct. Communicating directly and firmly is not the same as being aggressive. You can communicate clearly and directly while still respecting the feelings and thoughts of others
  4. Get your facts. Be sure your information is accurate. Be honest if you are not sure of certain facts. The point of communication is not just to persuade the other person – it is to arrive at a mutual understanding
  5. Show Respect.   Express feelings honestly and clearly without putting the other person down.
  6. Use Positive Body Language. Offer possible non-verbal messages such as a smile or touch. Messages should be simple, clear, brief, accurate and straight to the point.

TIPS TO IMPROVE COMMUNICATION

  • Practice – Good communication skills require practice – the home, school, religious institutions are classical environment to practice these communication skills
  • Learn to listen – Just as it is essential to express yourself, it is also important to listen. Good communication is two-way (sending and receiving)
  • Focus on the topic – Sticking to the issue at hand limits the potential for confusion and misunderstanding.
  • Avoid assumptions – Checking for understanding allows each person to make sure they have heard what is being said correctly. Sometimes, people incorrectly assume they know what the other person is intending to say which can leads to misunderstandings

Negotiation

Can you recall a time that you really wanted something but didn’t know how to ask for it? Or maybe you just felt that you wouldn’t be listened to?  Do you sometimes want to “win” an argument rather than meet someone halfway? Life presents endless situations that require negotiation.

Negotiation: What Does It Mean?

Negotiation is an interactive process between two or more people. It involves solving problems creatively to prevent or settle a disagreement without giving up on your original position or ideas. Individuals who are good at negotiating know who to get enough of what they want, without making others unnecessarily angry or hurting other’s dignity.

Why Is Negotiation So Important?

As a young person, negotiation skill is an important life-skill to acquire.

  • Negotiation helps you live and work with others in cooperation For example in team games, class activities, etc
  • It also helps a young person face complicated relationships and overcome them, thereby helping to prevent unwanted sex, HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
  • Negotiation builds your empathy. It helps you understand other people’s situation and feelings.
  • It helps you get out of a dangerous situation.  But the aim of negotiation is not to compromise, it is simply to get away from the situation.   Any time physical force or threats are involved; you can also turn to an adult.

How To Negotiate

When people forget how to negotiate, a conflict easily becomes worse. You can negotiate effectively, using the following six steps:

  1. “I want ____”:  State your position using ‘I’ statements. Try to be very specific about what you want or need.
  2. You want ___”: Ask the other person to use “I” statements to say what he or she wants. If the person does not use “I” statements, ask him or her to do so.
  3. Listen Carefully!: Don’t think that you already know everything that the other person is thinking or feeling. There are two reasons to listen as carefully as you can. First, this is your chance to try to find something you can agree with and offer to compromise on. And second, we all want to feel “heard” – it helps just to let the other person know that you hear their ideas and care about their feelings and ideas.
  4. Debate: Re-state each other’s positions to be sure they are well understood. You must know how to control the emotions that may cloud the discussion. You must identify the emotions, and try to put them aside. Say No effectively to unsafe behaviour using assertive communication skills.
  5. Bargaining: Ideally, both parties gain something at the end of the bargaining. So it’s important to state what point is the most important to you, and which point you might let go. Look for a compromise that both people can feel comfortable with. You can be creative.

Agreement:  Agree on a solution. Try it out and if it does not work, start the process all over or both parties should go their separate ways

Assertiveness

We all have the right to express ourselves and our wishes. It might feel more difficult to speak your mind if someone disagrees, or if someone tries to pressure or intimidate you. To ‘assert’ means to express your beliefs, feelings and needs in a straightforward way, without infringing on the rights of other people. The skill required to do so is called assertiveness and this piece is focused on exactly that: How to stand up clearly for yourself and your rights without putting the other person down.

Being Assertive – How Is It Different from Being Aggressive, Manipulative and Passive?

Assertiveness involves firmness or clear and straightforward presentation of views, without oppressing others. Assertiveness is positive and affirming. Assertiveness invites the other person to have dialogue.

Aggressiveness means standing up for one’s rights at the expense of the rights of others. It is negative and demanding. Some examples are blaming, criticizing, starting an argument, or even being violent. It’s no surprise that aggressive communication is not good for relationships.

Manipulation involves using deceiving, misleading, lying, or blackmailing someone to get what you want. You can see that it is not the same as being straightforward and assertive.

Passiveness is failing to express one’s needs and feelings at all, or expressing them so weakly or indirectly that you will be either misunderstood or ignored.

Benefits of Assertiveness

Asserting yourself can make a big difference. Learning to be assertive can also help you meet your own goals. For example, you can learn to tell a teacher you’d like a special responsibility. You can clearly communicate a request to a friend or family member.

Being assertive can also help you resist pressure to do something you do not want to do. This may be resisting peer pressure to skip your homework. It may be knowing what to say and do if you experience sexual harassment. It can also help you avoid or resist pressure from someone who tries to force you to have sex.

People tend to admire others who are assertive and respectful. They are more likely to have honest relation- ships and to achieve what they want.

Basic Assertiveness Skills

It is easier to be assertive if you know your own values and have good communication skills. You can practice speaking up for yourself. This can include seeking opportunities (such as seeking a school leadership position), asserting your rights (such as not wanting to be married off while you are a child), or refusing things that other people want from you that are not what you think is best for yourself.

Here are some tips to help you be more assertive, whether you are initiating a discussion or responding to someone:

  1. Know what is most important to you. This helps you draw boundaries and keep them. For example, “Protecting my health” or “Not getting in trouble” may be your priorities.
  2. Take a clear position: Convey your message calmly, honestly, directly, and courageously. For example, “I want to apply to be a student leader. I’d like to ask for your support.”
  3. Use “I” statements. Rather than putting your message in terms of someone else, speak up on your own behalf. Say what you want or feel.
  4. Practice assertive body language: Your body language should match your message. Stand straight, look someone in the eye, practice using a strong tone of voice (Smiling while you refuse something may lead to your being misunderstood).
  5. Give reasons for your position (especially if it is not a stranger), such as: “I’d like have a pet because I’m lonely at home most times since my brother left for boarding school“, or “No, keeping late nights exposes me to danger”, or “No, I have decided to finish school before dating” or “No, we could get expelled” or “No, I am too young to marry”, or “No, I don’t like being around people who are always drinking alcohol or smoking cigarette”, “I want to continue to university because it will prepare me to have a satisfying career.”
  6. Turn the discussion: If need be, try saying something like: “I always thought you were smarter than that” or “I can’t believe you would ask me to do that. I thought you were my friend”.
  7. Rely on your instincts or self-conviction: If a situation doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t right. If you are in danger, leave immediately without discussion. Walk away with a confident attitude. Be sure not to return to that same scene as that may suggest you have had a change of mind.

The “ASSERT” Formula

Another way to think about assertiveness is the following formula of what assertiveness entails:

A-Attention: Get the other person to agree to listen to you. Find the right time, place, or method that helps him/her focus.

S-Soon, simple and short: Speak up when possible, as soon as your rights have been violated. Look the person in the eye and keep comments to the points.

S-Specific Behaviour: Focus on the behaviour that compromised your rights, not on the person. Tell the person exactly what behaviour disturbed you.

E-“Effect on me”: Share the feelings you experienced as a result of the person’s behaviour. “I get angry when…” “I get frustrated when…” (NOT You did to me.)

R-Response: Describe your preferred outcome, what you would like to see happen instead and ask for some feedback on it.

T-Terms: If all goes well you may reach an agreement on how to handle the situation in future, agree to disagree or simply come to a compromise. Even if no agreement is reached, you have asserted yourself with dignity.