Seth Ferranti/ Class 6: Communication Skills

by Seth Ferranti

151. Describe situations you can recall when inadequate communication skills led to decreased opportunities in your life.

Being in prison for so long, going on 20 years, I feel my ability to communicate effectively in prison is very high. At the same time my ability to communicate effectively in the real world or a business setting has decreased. Although I never possessed this ability before because I was a kid when I got locked up. I remember when I first got locked up I couldn’t understand some of the different people of various backgrounds that dominated the prison environment. I would have to keep asking them what they said. I couldn’t understand them or what they were saying. Their syntax, the words they used and their accents or pronunciation was very foreign to me. But over the years I have perfected the prison lingo or speech so that now I can understand and make myself understood. This helps to avoid problems. Communication in here is the key and now that I am going back out into the real world I have to work hard on being understood and I have to adapt my speech and what I say and how I say it for the business and entertainment world.

152. Describe situations where stronger communication skills may have enhanced your prospects for success.

Learning to communicate effectively in prison definitely enhanced my ability to dodge the traps, pitfalls, hater and bammers that occupy the netherworld or corruption and violence which resides in our incarcerated nation. By learning the lingo of the land I have increased and enhanced my ability to get by and function and do what I have to do to prepare for my future and inevitable release. Living in prison is like living in a fishbowl and you can’t escape anything or anybody so being able to make yourself understood and to understand others is a valuable commodity.

153. What do communication skills mean to you?

Being able to function and get by and do what I need to do with the least amount of problems and hassle, that is what the communication skills I have developed in prison mean to me. They have enabled me to navigate these somewhat treacherous waters and guide myself through all the bullshit and drama and enabled to stay out of the mix these last ten years and work on the things that will provide success for me upon my release. The communication skills I have developed are really a means to and end just like everything else I have been doing, gearing up and preparing for the outcome I desire when I walk out of these gates.

154. In what types of ways can improving communication skills assuage the burden of confinement?

My communication skills allowed me to traverse the harsh landscapes and environments of the prison world by speaking effectively and being understood so that I could do the things I needed to do to get by and live comfortably and at the same time to pursue the goals and objectives that I needed to pursue in order to have a future in the outside world. It has been a fine line to walk to retain my respect in here and not be a victim or target and at the same time do what I have to do to make the transition and assimilate to the outside world. It is a path that I am still on and learning to navigate since now I am getting closer to the door I must improve my ways of speaking and communicating so that I can enter back into the real world and make that transition like I was never gone.

155. What types of influence do communication skills have on an individual’s prospects for success upon release?

I am constantly trying to cut out the nuances and ways of speaking that I ahve picked up during almost 20 years of incarceration so that I will not be branded or noticed as a convict or long term prisoner. I will not deny who or what I am but as a normal person walking around in America I am not trying to advertise it either and I am trying to adapt my speech and mannerisms back to what society expects. It is a reversal of the transformations I have made in here to adapt and to survive but it is a process that I must go through to make the transition back to society.

156. How can developing communication skills open opportunities through imprisonment?

I have learned to communicate on many different levels and with many different people. Through my writing I am communicating the prison experience that I have been subjected to and endured. I have crafted and honed my message so that it can be recieved in an intelligent and acceptable manner. Nobody wants to have a pity party or feel sorry for me because I sold drugs. I am a man and I have taken my punishment accordingly but still if I think something is wrong than I can’t just say its wrong I must communicate this message in an appropriate way and use an appropriate forum to address my concerns. That is what I have attempted to do with my writing, to create opportunities to communicate through my imprisonment.

157. In what ways can an individual take clearly-defined, measurable steps toward improving communication skills?

Now that I am in the RDAP (drug program) I am using this opportunity, where we are expected to get up and talk in front of 130 men, as a staging board to refine and perfect my public speaking skills. I have just started and know that I have lots to work on concerning my communication skills but I have the will, energy and desire to become an effective public speaker so that I can communicate my story to the public when I come home in public speaking engagements. Using that forum to spread my message and story. It is a task as I have to cut out almost 20 years of learning to speak in the prison lingo and style but it is a task that I will complete so that I can realize my goal of being an effective public speaker.

158. In what ways have you taken measurable, deliberate steps to improve your communication skills?

By asking others in the RDAP community to critique me when I speak in the community meetings I am taking measurable and deliberate steps to improve my communication skills in this forum. Just as before I learned to communicate effectively in prison with people of different nationalities, cultures, races and backgrounds and then as I took it one step further to communicate effectively with the public through my writing and website now I am tackling another area and forum, that of public speaking. I will keep working on this for my last two years in prison so that I can give a comfortable, knowledgeable and precise detailed presentation when I get out in the hopes that people will want to hear what I have to say.

159. What value do enhanced communication skills offer to a prospective employer?

By learning to communicate in the various ways I have described in the answers above I believe this shows my versatility to communicate in a number of different forums and avenues. It also shows my willingness to step outside the box and learn new and different ways to communicate that can be both mutually beneficial to me and any prospective employers or people that wish to work with me on any types of projects or business arrangements in the future.

160. How can a prisoner convey the extent of his communication skills and his personal investment to improve such skills?

By writing like I am doing on my blog, in my books and in magazine articles I have done. By expressing and verbalizing what you are going through and the transitions you are making with the SAG program. By standing up and speaking in the RDAP (drug program) and practicing my speaking and communication skills. Also by making an earnest effort to curtail swearing and speaking in the prison lingo because in the outside world talking like that has no place. Also prisoners can teach classes on different subject through the education department. Standing up and teaching is a good way to learn to communicate effectively. Also by writing letters and calling your family and expressing yourself and what you are going through and what your plans are and how you hope to accomplish them.

161. How does the prison experience influence an individual’s development of communication skills?

It can definitely hinder it if you decide to shut down and stay out of the mix. A lot of dudes in here to avoid problems just don’t deal with people at all on a daily basis. They go in a shell and are real timid and almost scared to speak or to make their presence felt in any way. You have to jump out there and expose yourself to the different cultures and learn how to communicate effectively. It can be a real learning experience. So the prison experience can most definitely affect and influence an individuals development of communication skills in different and varying ways.

162. In what ways do developing communicating skills resemble the development of physical fitness?

Its something that you can work on a little at a time. You can discard bad habits and pick up good ones. Just like when you work out regularly and try new things you can do the same thing with your communication skills. If it is speaking a different language or however you go about it, its gradual and you build up to certian abilities by working hard and sticking at it.

163. What does it mean to read with a purpose?

Read with a purpose is not just to read for entertainment. Most people in here and in the real world read to escape that is why fiction is so popular. People just want to be taken away from whatever world they are living in for the moment while they delve into a book. But reading with a purpose is to absorb what you are reading, to learn and gain knowledge and insight. To think about what you are reading and how it effects you in your daily life and how you can use the knowledge you have gained to better yourself and your situation and maybe even help others.

164. Describe the pattern of books you have read throughout your term in prison. What kind are they and why do you read them?

I have read a lot of fantasy books but also a lot of true crime and prison non-fiction accounts. I was very absorbed in reading about prison when I first entered to learn as much as I could about prison life and the culture it entails. Later on I moved on to reading about publishing and how the business and industry works and lately I have been reading a lot of books about social media and how to apply it to grow my writing career. Also I have read a lot about eating right and exercising, how to get agents, how to write screenplays, some history and books on how to become a better writer. I think my pattern of reading is very diverse and interesting. I read to escape but mostly for knowledge and to learn how to do things and how to apply the things that I learn to my life and to the things that I hope to do and accomplish.

165. In what ways do books you read prepare you for success upon release?

A lot of the books I have read are preparing me for success upon release. I read about 30 books on self publishing and that enable to come up with the plan for my publishing house that my wife put into effect. Today I still continue to read about social media, health and nutrition, writing screenplays and movies, books on directors and people involved in entertainment, so that I can see how they did what they did and accomplished what they accomplished. With their guidance through books I have formulated my own plan of action that I will implement upon my release. But I am doing everything possible right now so that I can get to that point because I realize it is a matter of positioning and I will have myself in the proper position so that success will be available to me.

166. When you consider the amount of free time available to you on a typical day, how do you determine the most effective ways to use it toward preparations for success?

I work on various different projects but I am always working on something. If it is not geared toward my future then I don’t do it. I am not the kind of dude in here who hangs out. I used to for my first 9 years but I realize now that was time wasted. I am lucky to have met Mike Santos because he inspired and motivated me to do a great many things. He taught me to use my time wisely and be productive and to not talk about ideas but to put them in action.

167. In what ways do you work to improve your dexterity with language, using words, sentences, and paragraphs to communicate ideas?

I am constantly trying to improve my dexterity with language by continuing to read and to learn and to converse with intelligent people and have dialogues with them. Both prisoners and people in the free world. Through emails I have widened my network of support and I continue to do so everyday trying to reach new people and a wider audience with my writing and website.

168. How would you describe the argot of the imprisoned class?

People in prison communicate at a very low level in the words and expressions that they use. The average education level is not very high and most communication is done through threats and a lot of feints and counters. It is a constant practice of polite assertiveness. But if you use big words or talk grandiose people in here wil not understand what you are saying and they might even get mad and think you are talking down to them. The lingo is prison specific and over time you can pick up the words, jargon and nuances in how, why and where they are used. Their is hidden meaning in a lot of the jargon and you have to know what dudes are saying and be understood at all times so there are no misunderstandings because that is how problem occur when there are misunderstandings on any type of level.

169. In what ways does the jargon of imprisonment compare of contrast with the language in the society you expect to encounter upon release?

It is a much more base or guttural language used in prison that in regular society. The jargon is brusque and direct because there is no room for misunderstanding. Dudes say what they mean and mean what they say. In regular society I expect that people will dance around things more and be polite and not direct and hope you understand what they say in the meaning of polite society but in here it is vicious and dudes will let you know exactly where you stand and what the deal is.

170. What does an individual speaker’s enunciation convey to his listeners?

In hear the way somebody says something can convey a lot. There is a lot of joking and even playing but when dudes get serious it can happen very quick and you will be able to tell by the way they enunciate their words. The tone will get much sharper and even more direct and an edge will come into the speakers voice. That is when you know it is about to get serious.

171. In what ways do an individual’s grooming habits or manner of dress communicate his values?

Long hair and a beard can be seen as a defense mechanism, like I am looking this way to keep people away. That is the way in prison where a lot of dudes won’t go clean shaven because they don’t want to appear feminine in any way. But in society it is the opposite, you are expected to present yourself in a clean cut manner with short hair and clean shaven. What is normal in prison is the opposite in the real world.

172. To what extent does documenting a prison journey communicate an individual’s commitment to success upon release?

By documenting your prison journey you are providing a record of transparency, like this is who I am, this is where I have been and this is what I think and how I am not. It is a way to pull back the curtain so to speak and give readers and other people a like a way to see into your mind and how you think and what stage of development you are at in your life. Where you are, where you have been and where you are trying to go.

One of the exercises Michael embraced to develop his communication strategy included writing book reports. In Earning Freedom, he wrote that books opened opportunities that contributed in meaningful, measurable ways to prepare him for triumph over the obstacles he expected to encounter. Each book had a purpose, and to stay on course, he used the following format to write his book reports:

  • How I came across the book (title of book):
  • Why I choose to read (title of book):
  • What I learned from (title of book):
  • Ways in which (title of book) will contribute to my success upon release:

 173. In what ways would writing similar book reports contribute to the development of your communication skills and preparations for success upon release?:

Writing book reports can make you think and relate how what you are reading can be applied to you. by reading of others success and downfalls you can calculate your own path to greatness through relation to others. It is a way to further strengthen your ability to express yourself to the outside world in a written manner while relating to a different world than the one that you are currently residing in.

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