Your Health First: Improving Interpersonal Relationships


As they say, communication is key, whether that’s at our workplace, in our relationships, or when we’re just out and about. But at some point, our skills aren’t always at their best. You may have been accused of not listening or not being able to politely agree to disagree.

So, why is that? We asked an expert for some analysis.

Marie Schaaf Gallagher, PH. D. is a clinical neuropsychologist at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

“Neuropsychology is the connection between the brain functioning and our behaviors: what we do and how we think and our thinking skills,” Gallagher said.

In her career, Gallagher has seen lots of change. But she points out the biggest change she has seen is the use of technology.

“Most of our tests are paper, pencil tests that we give to patients. And a lot of that is moving to tablet-based administration and computerized administration,” Gallgher said.

Gallagher said technology is not only changing how she and her colleagues do their job, it’s also changing us.

“Technology can be a great tool for lots of reasons. It also decreases some of the components of interpersonal communication,” Gallagher said.

Some of those crucial ingredients missing when communicating electronically, Gallagher explained, include body language and tone of voice.

“Social media moves very quickly. And so, we don’t always give ourselves time to pause and think about how our message is being conveyed and how it might be received,” Gallagher said.

Another pitfall with technology, Gallagher said, is it call allow us to limit the information we see to fit our needs and way of thinking. However, Gallagher isn’t the only one who’s notices what can exist in the social media world.

“I don’t use a lot of social media,” John, a Bismarck resident said. “I just don’t really like everything that’s put out there.”

“I stopped using it so much,” Bismarck resident Crystal said. “Just the drama, I guess. If you find yourself on there and you can’t get away from it… you got to find a way to stay away from the drama.”

So, how do you disconnect and learn to be more open? The doctor offered this diagnosis.

“Let social media or let your technology help you set an alarm on your phone, so that every day, if you’ve been on the phone for 30 minutes, it says: ‘Hey! Get off your phone’,” Gallagher said.

What also might help, Gallagher said, is meeting with different groups of people. You can also read; Gallagher recommends fiction, so that you can practice putting yourself in a different world. And of course, be sure to have more and more conversations off-line, like an old fashioned phone call.

Because, when it comes time to communicate face to face, without that practice, your interpersonal skills won’t improve. In other words, use it or lose it.

Despite Gallagher’s findings, she said even with our increase in use of technology, like texting or Tweeting, she is not seeing attention spans diminishing. She also said if you find yourself being short with people, more than usual, make sure you’re eating right and sleeping well. Otherwise, be sure to see a healthcare provider.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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