Respectful Dialogue: Ritual As A Life Skill
by Shokooh Miry, Sigma (University of California, Berkeley), Ritual, Traditions, and Jewelry Committee
As a psychologist, I spend most of my day talking about the professional and personal challenges of my patients. One of the most common themes in these discussions centers on communication, specifically what I like to call “effective dialogue.” So many times, we struggle in our relationships and our own life experiences because communication is unclear, disrespectful or ineffective.
I often find myself wishing more people could be exposed to what I have learned from Alpha Omicron Pi about ways to improve dialogue and weave important values into communication.
As an AOII, I know our Ritual contains many guidelines about effective communication. It centers on core values that can inform the type of effective dialogues and communication styles that are truly life skills.
Our first exposure to Ritual comes in college, at a time when we are being challenged academically as students, and also experiencing more independent lives and learning to grow as leaders. In our AOII lives, we work in teams. Some of us live with our sisters, learning the important skills of compromise and navigating differences of opinion. We spend many valuable hours in chapter meetings, presenting our ideas, advocating passionately for our opinions. Sometimes, we agree. Sometimes, we disagree. Sisterhood brings moments of deep friendship and meaningful bonds. It also brings times of disagreement and moments of stress.
What does Ritual say about how we should conduct ourselves in these moments? What can we learn from Ritual about managing our emotions, balancing our thoughts, and effectively communicating?
What would be different in our dialogues and conversations if we connected with Ritual more often, and remembered our values? How would Ritual affect the most powerful components of communication—describing a situation, expressing emotions, making a request or setting a boundary with another person?
I often teach people these four components of effective communication:
- Descriptions: Effective communication means sharing what we see and describing our perspectives on the situation. To effectively describe things means we are clear with our statements, that we try to remain honest and accurate when we speak.
- Expressing emotions: Effective communication means expressing our emotions with a sense of balance: talking when we are ready and calm; taking a break if we need one; sharing our emotions, but also remembering to give the other person a chance to share their emotions; staying true not only to how we feel, but what we know; balancing emotions with logic and reason.
- Making a request: Effective communication means not being afraid to ask for what we need. Trying to be specific, expressing our needs and giving the other person a chance to help is a healthy practice.
- Setting a boundary: Effective communication means that we sometimes need to say no and to set boundaries. Learning how to do this in a diplomatic and skillful way is truly a life skill.
What would happen to our relationships and our chapters if we worked to integrate Ritual into all of these areas?