We’re all too familiar with the “dark side” of communication – hate speech, unethical advertising, poor customer service.

But what about the other side of communication? The kind of communication that creates positive relationships and helps enact social change? 

Positive communication is an emerging field – born out of communication studies and positive psychology – in which researchers examine how communication can positively impact our relationships, our communities, and our world.

At UNC Greensboro, communication studies majors have the opportunity to explore this new field. Most recently, students in CST 460: Positive Communication, taught by Dr. Kristen Christman, took the lessons they learned in the classroom and applied them to local organizations in Greensboro. 

During the second half of the fall semester, students were tasked with developing positive communication workshops for Cone Health and Webb Heating & Air. 

First, the students met with leaders of each organization to learn more about their goals and communications challenges. After meeting with the organizations on campus, the students conducted additional research, and some even visited the organizations to learn more. Students then used concepts from class to make recommendations for how to improve communications in the workplace. 

For example, one student group offered guidance to Webb Heating & Air service technicians. They highlighted the importance of asking questions of the customers – both personal and professional – and developing active listening skills. 

“Our customers typically call us when they are experiencing an issue with their HVAC system, so our employees must use their communication skills to turn a negative situation into a positive outcome,” said Josh Bradshaw, general manager of Webb Heating & Air’s Greensboro location. “When this opportunity came up, we saw it as a way to help students at UNCG learn from real life examples in the workplace, as well as a way to gain a new perspective on our own working environment.”

Bradshaw and marketing manager Maggie Webb Norris worked closely with the students over several weeks. What’s one take-away for the Webb Heating & Air team? 

“The students introduced the concept of role-playing difficult customer interactions, which is something we have never tried before,” Bradshaw said. “We plan on utilizing the role-playing technique when training our staff on topics such as answering the phone and first impressions, leading customer conversations in a productive direction, and handling issues with upset customers.”

For Steve Marshall, clinic nurse manager and practice administrator at Cone Health’s Patient Care Center, it was especially helpful to get feedback from students who do not have experience working in a health care setting. 

“Bringing in others who can give a completely unbiased perspective allowed us to see how non-medical individuals perceived our actions and how we can communicate more clearly,” he said. 

The experience has been invaluable for Dr. Christman’s students, who have been able to develop transferable skills that they can use as they begin their careers. 

“When you’re graduating with a communication studies degree, what skills are going to help you get a job? Developing a workshop is very relevant. We’re translating academic research to the real world to help businesses solve problems,” Christman said. 

Learn more about UNCG’s Dept. of Communication Studies at cst.uncg.edu.

 

Story by Alyssa Bedrosian, University Communications
Photography by Martin W. Kane, University Communications