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Perfectionism - The Communication Roadblock

Perfectionism is often seen as a positive trait. After all, it's the desire to achieve excellence in everything we do. However, when it comes to learning a foreign language, it can actually hinder us.

Imagine this: You're trying to learn a new language, but you're so focused on getting every grammar rule right and avoiding mistakes that it starts to paralyze you. You become afraid of communicating in that foreign language because you're worried about not understanding or sounding silly with errors. The fear of making mistakes spirals you into a negative cycle. You make an error, you feel awkward and embarrassed. These negative feelings don't contribute to fluency and confidence in the language; they only amplify the communication block and hinder you from engaging in conversations.

This avoidance of communication leads you to miss out on valuable opportunities for progress. You avoid actively participating in conversations, thus depriving yourself of the most beneficial situations for language growth. This cycle becomes destructive, sabotaging all your other efforts to master the language. The result? Despite spending years in language classes or courses, you find yourself struggling to communicate effectively.

It's all about mindset – the way you perceive yourself, your learning journey, how you view mistakes, and your overall attitude toward the language itself.

So, what separates confident communicators from those who feel blocked?

First and foremost, perfectionism needs a reality check: perfection doesn't exist. Nobody is flawless, and that applies to language learning too. It's perfectly normal to make mistakes, and it's crucial to understand that errors are part and parcel of the learning process. Remember, even professionals, interpreters, teachers, and even native speakers, in both their mother tongue and foreign languages, make mistakes.

Mistakes are golden opportunities for growth. They are not your adversaries; they are your teachers. Mistakes highlight where you need improvement and what you should focus on. So, don't shy away from communicating or making mistakes. The more you communicate, the more opportunities you have to learn. Embrace errors as valuable tools for learning, pushing you further toward fluency. Instead of constantly dwelling on your mistakes, apologizing for them, or reminding yourself of them, concentrate on what you want to express.

Focus on content, not perfection. Communication isn't about flawlessness in expression; it's about exchanging information, ideas, and emotions. If you look around, you'll notice many confident and fluent communicators who aren't always error-free. They understand that the goal of communication is mutual understanding and sharing thoughts – not impeccable correctness. The truth is, most people don't care about the mistakes you make; they care about what you're trying to convey.

Language is a tool, a means to an end. It should serve the purpose of facilitating communication, not becoming an end in itself. So, what's the aim of communication? That's something only you can answer, but in most cases, it's not a 100% accuracy.

In the end, our mindset toward mistakes and learning a language can either be a roadblock or a catalyst for progress. Rather than fixating on the fear of making mistakes, let's reflect on why we're learning the language in the first place. Whether it's for work, travel, or personal interest, let's remind ourselves of these motivations and use them as our driving force. Accept errors as part of the learning journey, prioritize progress over perfection, and remember that the purpose of communication is mutual understanding. Focus on expressing what you want to say, and allow language to be the means to achieve that goal. Only when we shed our fear of mistakes and concentrate on the benefits of communication can we truly move forward.

Mgr. Jana Grežová, ACPC

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