When your child leaves home for college, you worry about losing contact. She will be living at college, and perhaps not returning home for several weeks or months, so you worry. However, with some effort on your part, your communication with your student may become even more meaningful than when she was home.
This post is the third in a series of five posts that may give you food for thought about how you communicate with your college student. Some of our suggestions may be common sense reminders, and some may be new ideas for you. Obviously, communication skills are interrelated, so please consider all of these suggestions together. Our first post concerned how you listen to your student, our second looked at nonverbal communication. In this post we discuss how to check perceptions to make sure you understand what your student is really saying. In our final two posts we’ll look at how to ask helpful questions, and how to frame some of your messages so your student may be willing to listen. We hope that thinking about how you listen and talk to your student may help you to keep all of your communication doors wide open.
You listen carefully to your student and you consider the nonverbal signals so that you can read between the lines. You know you’re getting the message. Maybe. No matter how much care you take to try to get the message correctly, you may be wrong. One technique that can help to improve your communication with your college student is called perception checking. It is simply making sure that what you think you heard is accurate. Don’t assume that your understanding is correct.
The goal of perception checking is that both you and your student have a shared understanding, that both you and your student know that you are working together to understand each other. This cooperative approach helps you to clarify what you’ve heard, but not put your student on the spot. It shows your respect for your student because you don’t assume that you can read their mind, and it shows that you recognize that your perspective may be different from your student’s.