Over the past two years at Brandeis I have learned how to better communicate with people who are different from me and have different life experiences. I feel that the skill of communication is a skill that can never be fully mastered, but through my involvement with Brandeis I have continued my learning and it has pushed me to grow into who I am today. I have recognized the varying communication skills I use to talk to different people. With a peer I use casual language, I put less thought into applying a filter, and I am not afraid to say what I am thinking. In a more professional setting with a professor or colleague, I am aware of what I am saying in a conversation. I contact them through email rather than text and observe their email signature to better understand how they want to be addressed.
I have learned communication skills through my work at Brandeis as a peer advocate at PARC, Prevention Advocacy Resource Center. I have learned how crucial it is to be aware when talking to someone that they have different experiences than me and I need to be conscious of that. Through my work at PARC I have learned skills to show I am listening without judgment. Through mirroring language and letting someone tell me as much or as little of their story as they want to, I try to make them feel comfortable and heard. I have learned how important it is to acknowledge my own biases and privileges in order to be more accepting and empathetic when talking with someone about a tough topic.
Through my internship at Lines for Life I have learned that communication is key in more than an advocate role. The topics of suicide and addiction are often tough topics to talk about because of the personal connection and devastating effect they can have on someone. Prevention work requires communication with lots of different people; it requires professional communication through email with the conference presenters and those helping to put on conferences, as well as with those who are collaborating on a project. Communication is required in face to face meetings with people and at events. It also requires communication with the community to teach them about suicide and substance use and abuse. Prevention work cannot make a change from an office; it must be a group effort working with the community.
I have learned that many people get into prevention work because of a personal experience or the experience of a loved one. Because of this, I have learned how crucial it is so be aware of the language I use so as to be respectful of a person’s relationship with the work. The communication skills I learned at Brandeis have informed my thinking by making me aware of what I am saying and being aware of the language I use. It has also helped me to consciously continue to learn more about how to best communicate with someone either through face to face or through written exchanges.