The first thing that comes to the average man’s mind when I say that I work as a Soft Skills trainer is usually the communication skills training. Simply because the evolution of this rich realm often started with such a basic notion of “effectively communicating with one’s self and everyone around”
So what is communication? Aside from the academic definition delivered to us as students in business administration, it is where someone is decoding a message encoded by another one and the channel and the distortion in the surrounding environment. From a soft skills point of view, communication is usually defined as “the art of speaking effectively and listening empathically” so, you can see why we – as Soft Skills trainers prefer such a definition, it identifies the communication as an art. Art is felt deep within your heart and is savored by our senses, it is just science which indicates a more dull and static impression.
What I really like about communication skills, besides being an art and not just some hazy stagnant theory, is the fact that we can acquire communication skills, simply by receiving the knowledge and practicing on the behaviors that reflect effective speaking and empathic listening. That means it is not a gift granted to you just because you inherited good genes.
Yes, communication is an acquirable skill and that is something we should be grateful for. Imagine a world where communication is a talent given by God and those who are do not have it, cannot obtain it through any other source. You know what would happen? Those who don’t have the gift would be isolated and would not survive because they can’t communicate with to others. Intimidating, isn’t it?
But, let’s be frank about something here, acquiring communication skills is not a piece-of-cake. To acquire a skill and to be able to use effectively, you need first to work on removing the barriers/obstacles you have. This task is not easy, even if you are not aware of your barriers. And that’s what makes one trainer more influential than another. He/she who can identify the trainee’s barriers and work with them to get rid of those barriers and apply the knowledge is the most successful.
Since it would be unfair to sum up the knowledge of communication in 1000 words or so, I will brief below some of the communication barriers, promising that I will come back occasionally to add further depth to this exciting part of Soft Skills knowledge at a later date.
Having an inflexible mind. Well, this is too predictable. Someone who is giving everyone around them a hard time because they are being stubborn and can’t accept others points of view is simply someone who can’t listen empathically. All the time they will be jumping to conclusions or rejecting what they are hearing.
Being emotionally driven. Middle Eastern culture is often associated with being emotional. We get angry easily, we get excited even more easily, and in between we tend to react to all situations emotionally. That is why getting your point communicated properly in our culture is such a daunting job, because if they disagree with you, you probably won’t be able to complete the sentence. Being that emotionally driven often leads the speaker to wrong assumptions and they may even start acting based on what was assumed!
Shyness. We can call it being shy to talk in front of public, or we can use the term “Gloss phobia”. Both will reflect the same; having shaky hands, weak knees, sweating a lot and maybe blushing when asked to talk in front of people. Not being able to overcome this one will often limit your influence in communication to only your close ones and those in your comfort zone.
Lack of general knowledge. You must know something about something, from your college education, post-graduate study or life experience. What I am talking about is general knowledge. The issue that we need to resolve sometimes is not being too shy to talk, but when we do talk, not having the right knowledge to share.
Unexpressive tone of voice. Imagine a leader speechifying his followers to inspire them because they are going through war, however, his voice has the same tone of someone checking with his friends their weekend plans. Or, when you call your best friend to tell them the most exciting news and they reply like “hmmm congrats you seem happy” instead of jumping up and down with happiness. Not reflecting your emotions through the tone of your voice is simply turning the communication to a smart phone chat-like format, you laugh out loud, scream and send romantic smiley faces while keeping the same flat face. So, unless you are staring to a touch screen to communicate with others, I recommend that you need to start using your vocals more effectively.
Sometimes, the lack of general knowledge and having an unexpressive tone comes from carelessness. If a person is too careless, they won’t seek the knowledge, or exert the effort to change their tone. A careless person, in general, is someone who takes great pleasure in not participating in life around him or her. So, after stating that, I think that carelessness is the most crucial and the most troublesome barrier in handling to a trainer, because nothing is more difficult than a person with no passion. That means no motive to be interactive and go out into the world!
Barriers to communication or any other soft skill have to be removed before practicing to gain the skill itself. As a trainer you will require base line assessments and activities designed to explore everyone’s barriers and readiness to learn so that you can tailor the training plan accordingly.
Otherwise the trainee will just receive the knowledge and discover they are not able to apply it, and then they will continue their life probably believing that communication skills are a God given gift!