Communication Skills Training

When I was offered some communication skills training recently, I was skeptical to say the least. It was ran by a life coach, came highly recommended and I wasn’t paying for it. Sure, why not!

I can confidently say that it was well worth my time. I have a clearer vision of my future both on an employment level and throughout the rest of my life. One thing that became an obvious “want” of mine, is to learn how to communicate effectively with others.

I believe I am a good communicator – my outgoing communication is good and I have no reservations with telling people my feelings or what I think. My challenge is when I’m trying to talk to someone who doesn’t communicate well. When I began the coaching I was under the impression that if I was talking to someone that was unable to articulate their feelings, it was a situation where “they can’t communicate, so they need to change”. Things aren’t always as they seem.

In my personal situation, people close to me often tell facts about their day to day life, but nothing of emotion, deep meaning and true value. I can hear about what happened at work for an hour (being busy, what new policies there are and so on), but not how tired they are from being busy, or how the new policies affect them (disappointment, frustration, etc). I acknowledge that facts have their place, their place isn’t here. When talking to someone you care about, you want to know how they feel and how life is going for them, not dry, unemotional facts of their life.

Communication Skills Training helps you to help others’ take part in meaningful conversation

With effective communication skills, you can encourage the most introverted person to open up and tell you meaningful information about their life.

Some useful steps to effective verbal communication:

  1. Remove Distractions – The easiest way to start a quality conversation. Television, radio, a computer, newspaper, etc. They will all distract you from your conversation. If the person you are talking to thinks you aren’t listening, they aren’t going to open up to you. This is easily fixed – turn the TV off, put the paper down, switch off your smartphone.
  2. Be Curious – Ask questions about the content of their conversation. If you are genuinely curious, the person you are talking to will begin to open up to you.
  3. Clarify – By clarifying what the person is saying, they often respond with more meaning in their speech.
    • Paraphrase – Say what they told you, but in your own words.
    • Mirror – In their words, repeat what they said.
    • Clarify – By clarifying what they are saying in your own words, you will make sure that you know what they are telling you. They will most likely further clarify what they are saying too.
  4. Ask Questions – Although point 1 is asking questions, this point is directly in relation to how it has affected them. It’s a direct question for meaning. “How did you feel about that?” “What was the impact on the rest of your day because of that?”

Drill Down for Meaningful Conversation

Your main objective is to drill down for meaning. Drill through the facts and the information to find out how they are coping with life. Find out what makes them happy or sad.

Not convinced after my first training session, I went straight to my desk and mirrored a colleague when he told me something about his home life. He proceeded talked for about 5 minutes about how life was affecting him at the time. I couldn’t believe it – it worked! And I was able to put a smile on his face after it all too – a good vent was all that he needed.

Coaching has taught me that much more is in my control than I first thought. If I can use these communication skills to help others, my life will be happier too. We all win!

Challenge Opinions, Don’t Force Them

Are you the sort of person that will force your opinion on someone as absolute? Challenging opinions of others is a much more effective way to win them over.

Emailing a friend, I mentioned an argument with my future mother-in-law about weddings and how my personal opinion of them is that they are a blatant waste of money. The stress of the whole thing just erodes the actual meaning of the day. In the end, I believe that weddings have very little to do with the marriage, or the love that two people have for each other; it’s more about the image that either the couple, or their parents want to portray to their friends and family. There appears to be an increasing culture of those that want to be seen having the really nice wedding “that must have cost a LOT”. It’s just another flash car, or a McMansion by the beach.

My ranting continued for quite sometime, as it usually does and ended up going into the financial side of a wedding.

…fact is that the average cost of a wedding in Australia is $28,700 (or was 4 years ago.. it has probably gone up since then). The average household income is $91,300 – the median household income is more like $50,000 before tax. Let’s say it’s $91,300. That’s $63910 after tax (in Australia), assuming they are both being taxed at 30%, which they probably are.. both earning around $45k or something.

A LOT of living expenses are coming out of that figure. Chances are they’re still renting, driving two Australian made cars with poor consumption and require servicing frequently, which also drains their wallet. It doesn’t leave a whole lot of money. Most Gen Y’ers can’t save a deposit for a house.. the government is giving them free money to get into debt which is a whole other topic which I shouldn’t get into now.

The thing is, they just don’t have the dollars to pay for a wedding.

What I realised when I was explaining all this, was that there is a black and white difference between the facts and an opinion.

When I have these debates I make a point of providing facts, then explaining my opinion as a result of learning those facts. More often than not though, the person I’m talking to isn’t interested in facts, only their opinion, which is absolute and as a result of emotions and “gut feel” more than anything else.

I don’t like to push my views on others, but I do like to help others, especially those that I care about. It’s a fine line.

Challenge opinions rather than forcing your views on others

The truth is in the facts. The facts can help others form their opinions and beliefs, my opinions and beliefs will rarely help others come to their own conclusions.

Facts are everywhere; if you can verify that they are in fact correct, you can make your opinion. Finance, diet, so on and so forth. There are facts and they are all relevant for you to hold a view on the topic.

Imagine if I said to you:

“I think the healthiest way to live is to be a raw vegan, so you should be one.”

Who am I to tell you what to do?

But if I said:

“Did you know that casein in milk has been proven to be a major cause of osteoporosis and other bone diseases in humans?”

You could then form an opinion from that fact (after doing your own research of course). That opinion could be to believe it and an action from that opinion may be to stop drinking milk.

Conspiracy theories are a perfect example of where facts can hold some vital information, but where the opinion of some presenters/producers/etc can take over and effectively turn a lot of people away from the original message that they wanted to send. Often there are facts that “the people” should know, but waking up one day and telling “the people” that “Obama is 21st century Hitler” is hardly going to go down well with the majority of people.

Stick with the facts. By all means let others know your opinion, but make sure they know it is your opinion and they are free to make their own.