Building better relationships through communication and listening emphasized at Character Day workshops

At the Character Day Bahamas Workshop held in August, this image shows past events held at various schools and islands in The Bahamas to promote good character and community.

Written by Azaleta Ishmael-Newry 

Focus on how to build and promote good character through events and activities took place at the recent online Character Day Bahamas workshops held over 2 days in August. More than 130 people from the education and guidance counsellor professions, government sector, youth organizations, including corporate leaders and administrators participated. A national Character Day will take place on October 20, 2021, to celebrate and showcase programs that will be reflective of its goals. 

Character Day films and activities generate conversation on 24-character traits, grouped into 6 categories on the Periodic Table of Character Strengths. Events are intrinsically linked to the five key competencies of social and emotional learning – self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. (Facebook – Character Day Bahamas). 

All participants felt that Character Day events are necessary and this year’s theme – ‘Be the reason that someone feels welcomed, seen, heard, valued, loved and supported,’ resonated well. After the hardships created by Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, a dedicated campaign to celebrate positive character in schools, the workplace and organizations creates positivity. Additionally, to recognize people in the community a ‘Hidden Heroes Bahamas’ campaign with a call for nominations that close on September 30, 2021, has been launched. 

Program coordinator Charlene Carey shared that communication is key to shaping and developing positive behaviour and if people are mindful of the other person’s perspective, then we create an environment where people can flourish.   

Speaker Dr Niambi Hall Campbell-Dean, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of The Bahamas discussed creative expression and provided 4 styles of communication and ways to build relationships.  Hélène de Jong a guidance counsellor at Lyford Cay School, teacher and certified life coach shared that listening created understanding. She also discussed the RASA method. 

Passive communication was the first style highlighted. It involves people who are trying to avoid conflict or seek sympathy.  Campbell-Dean suggests that if the person is passive about expressing their point of view, it can cause confusion and frustration, missed opportunities and can develop into stress and resentment.   

Aggressive communication on the other hand means to win at all costs and gain control resulting in others feeling intimidated, humiliated and defensive. “In our society, we tend to tolerate this kind of behaviour,” said Campbell-Dean. “We perceive them as people who don’t play! …We see this in many areas of our society. In parliament, on TV and it’s very familiar to us, we especially see it in gender differences.”   

In the passive-aggressive communication style, aggression is demonstrated indirectly, consequently leaving others frustrated and confused, and problems tend to be unresolved. Needs are not met, and effective communication weakens. At the time of the incident, the person may not speak up but may do so later, bringing up old wounds or unresolved issues. 

Assertive communication is the best method that allows both parties to be seen, heard, valued and respected. There are problem-solving and direct statements made and listening is key to making this technique successful. Focus is placed on the problem and not the individual.   

“When people know that there are different ways to behave, they can change.  If you can provide people with a better way, they can learn and use the examples,” said Campbell-Dean. This method solidifies the importance of building good character and improving one’s self. 

Listening creates understanding and when it comes into play, we want to focus on the behaviour and have a conversation explains Hélène de Jong. “It helps to nourish our souls and other people,” she said.  De Jong referenced Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert, award-winning author, and five-time TED speaker who stated, “We listen only 60% of the time and only retain about 25% of what we hear.”  

The acronym R.A.S.A. (Receive, Appreciate, Summarize and Ask questions) is a valuable tool that can improve our listening skills. 

Program coordinator of Character Day Bahamas, Charlene Carey (top right) facilitated the workshops held
on Zoom. More than 130 people from the education and guidance counsellor professions, government
sector, youth organizations, including corporate leaders and administrators participated in 2 workshops.

Receive – pay attention.  Are your eyes looking at the speaker?  Is your body facing the speaker? Do not look at your phone so that you can receive the message. 

Appreciate – Use your body language. A nod of the head states that you are hearing the person and it is also saying that they are appreciated. 

Summarize – Paraphrase for clarity and understanding. Repeat back what you have heard which gives the person an opportunity to clarify if anything in the conversation was misunderstood. 

Ask Questions – Seek more information, be still and be in the moment.  

Workshop participants provided examples of positive and negative language between teachers and students and employers and employees and made suggestions on how to create a better environment and character values. 

Character Day Bahamas is led by the PACE Foundation and is sponsored by the Templeton World Charity Foundation Inc. which offers the opportunity for t-shirts and other resources to be distributed free of charge to the schools and youth organizations participating in the program.