Monday, December 14, 2009

Good Hair, Bad Hair, et al.

Do you have good hair? Straight hair? Bad hair? Nappy Hair? Wavy hair? Does it make a difference? According to our culture it does! Preference is an interesting word….Some people cry out against “special preference” given to others while they themselves have experienced preferential status all their lives. Maybe they were tall enough, light enough, smart enough, rich enough, male enough, and the lists of preferences goes on. It’s in the language that we label, categorize, stereotype, prejudice, prefer. The image of straight hair is clear in your mind along with its connotations of place in society. You understand its label, category, stereotype, prejudice, preference as well as the characteristics of its “antithesis” nappy hair. However, anyone using their common sense knows, good hair is healthy hair and bad hair is unhealthy hair which of course has nothing to do with the curl of the hair. But beauty does. And we have ascribed certain traits (words) to beauty.

Language and culture create a shared meaning. Some labels are so toxic they induce self-hate. How can you love something called “bad hair”? Some words are supposed to evoke envy such as thin and rich. Language strongly influences reality. (Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, 1920, 1959, 2008). The words being used are the ones that are creating the realities we are living. Why would Black Women of all spheres of Black life invest in “taming” their hair into culturally accepted European styles? Maybe they do not want to be seen as having bad hair.

Yes, I am a survivor of the language of oppression and its deep scars that have tried to rip my self-esteem and self-worth asunder. I survive to spread the words of conscious acceptance or rejection choosing to create a new vocabulary of empowerment. Let’s take this “insightful” moment as an opportunity to have a deeper discussion about WORDS and their power. Movies like “Good Hair” and “Precious” are trying to have a serious dialogue with us on far deeper levels than most feel comfortable acknowledging. Maybe its time for a new language; maybe its time to choose different words. We can make different choices – we can use our words to heal, uplift and create inclusive beauty – its all in what we say and it’s always your choice!

By P.S. Perkins, Author, The Art and Science of Communication, Wiley, 2008

Monday, November 2, 2009

Communication Positioning

Welcome to Dear PS,

This edition is guaranteed to help bring communication to the forefront of your life. Enjoy, grow and Pass It On!

Millions use or have at least heard of Global Positioning System (GPS) that helps drivers navigate through the highways and byways of life. Yes, GPS has its definite benefits but what about YCP, Your Communication Positioning? GPS may provide directions from A to B but your communication positioning is the guiding force of all your relationships – personal, social and professional. It’s time to turn on Your Communication Positioning navigation system.

All new “equipment’ comes with guidelines and a manual of operation. So what is YCP and how does it work? Every individual is consciously and/or subconsciously aware of and operating within their perceived communication position. It is the position of power and acceptance they perceive themselves to have within a communication experience or environment. Have you ever noticed that you feel and respond to people you interact with based on how you perceive yourself in connection to them? We live in a culture where we are constantly taught to compare ourselves to one another – we engage daily in social comparisons. Our self-worth or value is the measurement we consciously and subconsciously position ourselves within whenever we are engaged in communication with self and others. So, whether it is our Intrapersonal, Nonverbal, Interpersonal, Small Group, Public, Persuasive or Intercultural communication experiences, we are ALWAYS transmitting and responding within our perceived worth. How you doin’?

Your level of self-esteem and self-worth directly impact your communication effectiveness and success. As you encounter and interact within your daily communication experiences understanding the volatility of communication positioning allows the effective deliverer to communicate in greater awareness and thus greater effectiveness to achieve desired goals.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dear PS writes:

The Politics of WORDS


Since the 2008 Presidential election, many of us have watched and listened with increasing incredulity to the vitriolic communication capturing the nation’s headlines. Much of the communication sounds and feels reminiscent of pre/post reconstruction and civil rights era rhetoric as factions divided and closed ranks around their individual interests. “Why can’t we all just get along” is still the cry of peace in 2009. I have been shocked and highly concerned about the manner in which some have decided to use their 2nd Amendment rights to vilify the current President of the United States and reconstruct change into fear, fright and the will to fight!

Maybe you missed some of the most controversial statements:
(The names have been left out to protect the not so innocent)
“President Barak HUSSEIN Obama is a racist. He hates white people.”

“You lie!”

“President Obama is a socialist, commie!”

“Yes, I meant what I said, I hope he fails!”

“Well, I think white men were 100 percent of the people that wrote the Constitution, 100 percent of the people that signed the Declaration of Independence, 100 percent of people who died at Gettysburg and Vicksburg. Probably close to 100 percent of the people who died at Normandy. This has been a country built basically by white folks in this country who are 90 percent of the entire nation-in 1960…”

Add to these words the thousands of news photos showing signs and pictures of the President with the recognizable Hitler mustache, devil horns, and a bone through his nose, as well as individuals attending his rallies toting guns…it’s a little more than out of control wouldn’t you say? And to add hurt to injury, many of these individuals purport to be devoutly religious.


So where are the voices of reason, sanity and civility? I have always been taught “out of the heart, the mouth speaks”. Well, my heart as well as my passion for communication that heals, tells me that I must write and speak out against this revisionist, anarchist and racist hate mongering SPEECH! It’s time to have a dialogue about the importance and effects of communication on our collective lives…one long over due in the American psyche. We are and will continue to be a nation divided by the color line until a critical number of us care more for the future of our children and our nation than we care about protecting our personal past or our particular present!

A large majority of American people elected a President of impeccable character, ability and compassion who brings with him the distinctive characteristic of being of mixed race, though having always self-identified as African American. In my lifetime, I have lived through Jim-crow (as a young child growing up in the south) and the civil rights movement. I have been labeled the “N” word, colored, Negro, black, African American and a person of color. The “labels” that have often eluded me and my ancestors have been those of: pioneer, scientist, city planner, clock maker, revolutionary, doctor, nurse, scholar, pastor, poet, abolitionist, soldier, astronomer, botanist, politician, inventor, etc., etc., etc....and all these BEFORE the end of slavery.

Fast forward 146 years later and the President of the United States is labeled an “illegal alien” by the crazed “birther movement” as well as the other dreaded “N” word - Nazi. Yes, it is enough to make you cry…and I have. I have cried for the millions of young American boys and girls who have to keep reliving a horrible past that refuses to be healed. If we do not use our voices to silence the forces of hate and fear, we are indeed conspirators to their misguided deeds! Our children deserve much better and so does the legacy of millions of Blacks, Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and other ethnic groups who have TOGETHER built America.

In spite of the refusal of some to acknowledge the contributions of all the cultures that have made this great nation, we have: the first Hispanic Supreme Court Justice, the first Black Attorney General of the United States, the 2nd female Secretary of State, and the first African American President! There is a lot to celebrate, reflect upon and be thankful for, but let us not forget – there is work to do before we can proudly pass onto our children a nation that truly practices its declaration “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men {people} are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” These are WORDS that act as the true moral compass of our nation. Are your words meant to heal or to kill? Are you speaking your truth? Let’s hear it; I am silent and ready to listen. There is no coincidence that both words have the exact same letters. You must be silent, inside and out, long enough to listen. Let the communication begin!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bringing Communication to the forefront of Your Success!

Dear PS
...just one more thing to say.

PS Perkins, contributor to: Laws of Communication & WAKE UP WOMEN
Dear PS:

Q: I have a real hard time talking with people one-on-one. When at gatherings or in small groups, I am ok, but when I have to interact interpersonally, I don’t know what to say!
A: The art of conversation is an ability that escapes most people for a number of reasons. One wonderful interpersonal conversation resource is listening! You’d be surprised what you can relate to when you recognize the commonness found in most discussions. Another important guide to conversation is your repertoire. What are your interests? What do you usually talk about? Discover a little about a lot and feel more comfortable talking to anyone! Lastly, learn to value silence. You do not have to say anything unless you feel it worthwhile to all listening.

Q: I have been reading about the power of positive thinking. I am not sure if it really works but I noticed recently that I am constantly thinking negatively about everything, easily angered, and discouraged. Do my thoughts really affect my mood?
A: Your concern is very important. Many individuals are experiencing challenging times. There has been an explosion of positive thinking gurus! Their messages are nothing new. The human race has always brought forth many thought “doctors” trying to help us see the direct connection between our thoughts, words, and experiences. So YES, your thoughts definitely affect your behavior – your life. We call this Intrapersonal Communication – your self-talk. By monitoring your thoughts, which will adjust your words, you WILL change your life! It’s like the old saying – “out with the old, in with the new!”

Q: I have received a couple of complaints that I have a tendency to invade other people’s space. I do not mean to but I guess I am just not aware. I just don’t get it!
A: Each culture has its own rules governing personal and area space. You may be from a culture that looks at personal space differently. The study of Nonverbal Communication (NVC), which is culturally bound, helps us to navigate the global community we increasingly must live and work in. This “science” includes variables such as time, space, touching, smell, etc. Observe the NVC of those around you and adjust accordingly – as I always say, “when in Rome do as the Romans; when at home do as the homies!” Communication is always appropriate or inappropriate.