The problem with communication skills training is that it breaks communication down into a list of behaviours and techniques.
It could be argued that, by dissecting, communication training dehumanises communication; which isn’t the ideal outcome!
In business and perhaps in life generally, we have all met those over keen people who demonstrate all the outward show of ‘good communication’, but somehow fail to convince. It really is as if they have been on a communication skills training course and learnt the paint by numbers route to successful communication: firm handshake, good eye contact, use of name, show that you’re listening, smile and so on...
But, communication can never be reduced to a sequence of mannerisms; it can never be a tick box activity. Communication is not simply a quick fit kit of external behaviours.
After all, you can deploy all the ‘correct’ external behaviours from your kit but if you are not paying attention internally then they appear as shallow as the movements of a mannequin.
Good communication rests first and foremost in a genuine desire to understand and explore, coupled with real listening. This listening requires you to quieten your inner monologue, to create some space in your packed mind to allow communication to occur. Real communication requires that you forget about whatever your agenda, objective or desired outcome is and that you listen. Really listen.
Listening is a powerful skill. If you don’t listen to someone you risk giving the impression that you don’t care about their opinion, or that they are not valued. This is never helpful in any situation – even if you genuinely don’t care about their opinion!
There’s nothing more irritating than a switch on / switch off communicator; someone who is all broadcast and no receive; someone who voices their thoughts and then loses interest the moment you start talking.
Sometimes switch on / switch of communicators try to conceal their lack of interest by deploying some learnt ‘good communication’ mannerisms (but the look in their eyes gives them away – they either look through you too intensely or they have that far away look).
Sometimes these switch on / switch off communicators simply switch off and start playing with their phone or looking out of the window. These people really need some help!
Communication skills training is essential, giving people the techniques they need to set the scene for successful communication and the sensitivity necessary to build successful workplace relationships.
However, this training is merely the starting point, or rather the signpost. The techniques learnt are designed to direct your inner focus, to free your deeper intuitions and sensitivity.
Good communication is always more than mechanical mannerism.