Getting Interpersonal

Tarah Collins BA ’19 was recently asked to speak to a group of employees from LifeShare, a company that provides technology to senior living communities. She felt confident and fully prepared because of the classes she had taken at Anderson University. In particular, she points to the two interpersonal relationships courses taught in the Department of Psychology.

Dr. Lee Griffith, professor of psychology, says that the first of the two courses was originally designed by Dr. Bill Farmen, professor emeritus. “It benefits students by teaching them effective communication skills, which helps them navigate the difficult moments we all experience in relationships.” He adds that the second course “provides students with the opportunity to teach these skills to the next generation by helping them learn how to effectively encourage growth in others.”

Throughout these courses, students roleplay realistic situations. Then, they record each attempt and analyze their performance against specific criteria. Finally, they discuss their results by comparing them with other students in the class.

Collins has already put the skills she learned in these classes to use, particularly when she spoke to LifeShare. Her lecture focused on reflective listening and responding to defensiveness. She taught others how to understand a defendant’s point of view, how they are seeing you at the moment, what emotion they are feeling, and what specifically they want from you. Seeing from the other person’s perspective breaks down emotional barriers that are put up when one is being defensive and allows for a better chance of productive conversation.

The most important skill Collins developed is how to be assertive. “Most often, when we are communicating with others, we have a tendency to beat around the bush rather than be direct, or we tend to let emotion get in the way of productive communication,” she says. “Once I learned to be assertive, it lowered my stress levels personally and professionally. I was happier.”

“A high IQ can only get you so far in the professional world,” Collins says. The interpersonal relationships courses have helped her develop high emotional intelligence as well. The skills learned in these courses are beneficial for all students no matter what degree they pursue.

Written by Cassie Sanchez ’20, excerpted from the Fall 2019 issue of Signatures magazine.

Anderson University is a private, liberal arts institution in Anderson, Indiana with a mission to educate students for lives of faith and service in the church and society. Anderson University is recognized among top colleges by U.S. News and World ReportColleges of Distinction, and The Princeton Review. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, the university now offers more than 60 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in businessmusic education, and theology.

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