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Communication strategies for prickly porcupines
by DJ Kauffman Correspondent · March 16th, 2017

Some people are thought of as porcupines, said Mt. Mercy University professor Dr. David Klope, Ph.D, to those who had gathered at the Marion Library at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 11, to hear him speak about Hugging the Porcupine: Speaking Peace to Hate. During the session, the audience learned about communication strategies for those hard-to-hug people and for others who desire a relationship with them.

Klope offered the following strategies in four communication areas where prickly people often have trouble--Seeing, speaking, listening, and building:

See (vs. Look) "Glance; then look on." The goal is for a person to see others as unique individuals at first sight. It is during this phase when people must "Kill the Morph" in their mind, Klope said. The morph is any preconceived stereotype, where people in groups have been categorized. Self-perception is about things similar to you and others are things that are different. Because people can feel uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, many tend to stick with those most like themselves.

Klope further explained morphing. He said others become awful in another's mind, when they are only thought about in a negative way. "This happens all of the time," he said. For instance, in religious communities when others think they are all the same. A mental image has been fabricated in their mind, so even before any two-way conversation can take place, the thought has already "morphed" into an ugly distortion.

SPEAK (versus Shout) Conversation with everyone must remain calm and it is important to say differences are okay, Klope explained. Conflict resolution needs to be sought and memories of all the bad things should be shut out. For instance, yelling is always a bad idea, even when someone is "poised to make you mad, and is trying to push buttons." Rage blinds and words become like thrown rocks, he said. That is when crazy talk happens and people begin exaggerating and forget about the facts. Two or more "bloodied people" are the result of such an encounter.

LISTEN (vs. hear) Hearing is different than listening, because listening involves comprehending what the other person is saying completely. When someone only picks out two or three points to support their assumption, then they are not allowing themselves to fully understand, Klope said.

BUILD (vs. bash) Bashing someone else is a waste of time. If someone finds him-or herself in a heated conversation, they should ask themselves why they are doing this," Klope suggested. Good conversations happen so relationships can grow; therefore, nothing good will happen until mutual respect has been achieved. It is not impossible to build strong friendships, even with porcupine people, but a platform of respect is first needed. These unlikely friendships can occur if the two sit for coffee and get to know each other.

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