How to be a better communicator: be aware.


I’m conducting a series of 4 trainings on communication (although I’m not a full time trainer: it just came out that way). And I’m not an expert on communication or building relationships either. Heck, I would even say that is one of my weak areas. But I guess at a certain stage I decided I was going to do something about it, and started focusing, reading and experimenting. And somewhere along the way, I was asked to build these skills for other people. I said yes.

Why is Communication (along with Time Management and Presentation skills) one of the most sought after trainings?

Why do people even believe that in 2 days someone is going to teach/train them how to better communicate?

I struggled with this question for a few days before starting to build my half-day training. Ultimately, I gave up. I realized I was not going to make better communicators out of my colleagues. They were not going to go back to their production lines and start spreading positive feedback and smiles. So I set outwith just one objective: make them more aware.

I really believe this for training in general: it takes you from indifference to being aware of some changes you want to make. Some great trainings go beyond that – they make you also experiment on those changes and see if they would work. They set a safe environment and make you practice then and there. But in the end, it’s still up to you if you continue that change – INTERNALIZE¬† the learning – outside the classroom.

So how does this work for a communication training?

I had very little time, so I made it a “communication pill” more than a training. I packed lots of exercises that could trigger “Aha!” moments and coupled them with examples from participants’ work areas.
But the most important thing was that I asked at the beginning what was one thing they would like to improve.

Setting awareness and picking an area to work on is the first ingredient of change.

Then, during the training, I made several comebacks at the areas they had set in the beginning, to keep awareness on them. Normally, in a 2-3 days training you would be able to see improvements on the spot – and this gives people the courage, confidence and enthusiasm to move forward and continue. But in a half day training all I could do is place a spotlight and raise some flags.

So, the half-day training compressed in a few lines, what would it be?

1. Pick an area you want to work on. For example: Dealing with difficult people; organizing own ideas and presenting them; being convincing; overcoming anger; giving feedback; motivating the team… and the list can go on.
Be as specific as possible.

2. Have someone – your colleagues, your boss, someone you trust – give you an honest evaluation on where you currently stand. Agree on the “delta” – where you want to get vs where you are now.

3. Study, go to trainings, read. Gather as many skills as possible. For this stage it’s ok to stick with the theory.

4. Prepare: Pick those occurences where the issue comes up most often. Imagine how you should deal with them in a better way: keeping your calm; delivering a great presentation (what does “great” mean to you?) and so on.

5. Practice. Do scenarios in your mind. Ask a friend to role-play with you. Discuss with your mentor. Get a coach and work on establishing options and resources for such situations.

6. After the first occurence of the issue – and your new behavior – BE AWARE. How did it work? What did you do differently? How did it feel? What went wrong? How easy was it for you to realize when the moment came?

For example, if you want to not get angry with a difficult colleague, it might be difficult to realize the anger before it comes. It might be difficult to control it.
But keeping awareness, even AFTER the fact, and analyzing the situation still means you’re committed for the change.

Internalizing comes with practice. It comes with awareness. It comes with not letting go.

Keep up the good work!

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