Examples of Skill-Building in Positive Supports

Interactions with Others

A black man and a white man sit outside at a cafe table talking and smiling.

Think about the ways in which we relate to other people. We all experience times when we struggle to understand how to interact effectively with someone else, even the people we know well. Understanding the ways we receive and send information during interactions with others strengthens our ability to make ourselves and others feel comfortable and welcomed in a setting.

One of the ways we can create a sense of comfort when talking to others is to be mindful of the messages that we are sending verbally and nonverbally. The way we are standing, our facial expressions, and how far away from the person we are are just some examples of actions that help us relate to others in a positive manner or make a negative impression.

In the photo on this page, you can see two men interacting. They are smiling, one man is not looking directly at the other person but it is clear that they are still making a positive connection together. The body language you see shows both men holding their hands in a similar way that mirrors each other's movements. Copying another person's language, speech, movements, and facial expressions can help express empathy, trust, and connection with others.

Cultural Responsiveness

People from different cultures express positive welcoming verbal and nonverbal messages in unique ways. If we are unaware of these differences, our attempts to connect with others can become more difficult. There may be different expectations relating to how a person responds to the environment and other people that depend on the traits and traditions of a community or culture. For example, in traditional Appalachian culture, people talk over each other to show agreement with the speaker. Some people may consider this behavior to be interrupting or aggressive.

Spending time understanding a person's cultural preferences when communicating is an important first step when building a relationship. Understanding our own level of comfort interacting with others, becoming more aware of what our body language is expressing, and making adjustments to our interaction styles based on cultural preferences are important skills that can help create more positive interactions with others.

There are different types of ways in which we communicate that doesn’t include language…this called nonverbal interaction. Examples include:

  • Mirroring body postures, pace, and movements
  • Using similar volume and pace as the other person
  • Seek out the same emotion and energy levels (calm and quiet, energized and dynamic, expressing similar emotions as another person)
  • Understanding differences in eye contact preferences
  • Moderating speech pacing, loudness, and style based on others
  • Repeating back what another person has said
  • Providing visual cues
  • Allow proximity to be shaped by the other person in conversation