printable banner

U.S. Department of State - Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Tess's Story a case study in misunderstandings and Chapter Objectives


Tess is a smart, talented teenage American international student who had just moved from Africa to Eastern Europe. We met her when we were working with students to help us to identify the issues and recommendations that would eventually become this book. It was our third day working with the students when Tess requested a private meeting with us to discuss an issue she was having with her friends.

Tess was the constant target of teasing and joking about all manner of topics. Her friends were continually teasing her about her fashion, her grades, and her comments in and out of class. She was exhausted both mentally and physically by the tension and stress this was causing her. She couldn't believe her luck that we were working with international students in her school on stress. A logical match, but what could we do?

We visited with Tess and discovered quickly that she was not just a talented and smart student she is also a consummate actor. She could easily hide her emotions and her true feelings. She hid them so well in fact that even her true and best friends failed to see that the teasing that they were doing was hurting Tess. She was far more sensitive than anyone knew or was ever likely to discover. Her friends were not only hurting her, they were completely unaware of the pain they caused for Tess and would likely never know, unless she told them!

Tess had two significant communications problems. The first was that she did a poor job managing her image. People thought she was tougher than she was. They were led to believe by Tess that this teasing and insulting behavior meant nothing and was completely ineffectual. It meant a great deal however and wounded her deeply. She was such a good actor that even her best friends couldn't see past her acting that everything was fine.

Her second problem was that Tess would have to learn to improve her communication to be sure that people would understand what she wanted and needed to have understood. But she didn't have the tools to communicate the message she wanted delivered.

While working on this chapter we had the chance to test our suggestions. Tess had the chance to communicate, to improve her image, and to learn to tell people what she wanted them to know. We helped her with the lesson and she helped us. Perhaps more than she could understand.

Today Tess is an actor playing the role she chooses, no longer a victim of misunderstanding, miscommunication, poor telling or poor listening!

Communications skills are an essential part of being emotionally intelligent. As we discussed in Chapter 3 emotionally intelligent people are able to be sensitive to others because they are able to tune into the verbal and nonverbal cues of other people and their communications. Emotionally intelligent people use communications skills to build and to maintain relationships, handle interpersonal interactions and manage and resolve conflict. Good communications, then, involves both listening to others and being able to clearly articulate their own thoughts and feelings.

The information and activities within this chapter will focus on the exploration and improvement of several essential communication skills including active listening, assertive communication and image management and mastering these skills, an important step in becoming a master a communicator.

Chapter Objectives:

Students will learn to

1. Use active listening.

2. Identify their own communication style.

3. Become appropriately assertive communicators.

4. Use adult communications and "I" Messages.

5. Manage their own image.

6. Put listening, communicating, and image management skills together to become master communicators!

Back to Top

Do you already have an account on one of these sites? Click the logo to sign in and create your own customized State Department page. Want to learn more? Check out our FAQ!

OpenID is a service that allows you to sign in to many different websites using a single identity. Find out more about OpenID and how to get an OpenID-enabled account.