The Seven Challenges

One Day Workshop for Developing Communication Skills for Success at Work 

This workshop proposes seven ways to guide your conversations in directions that are more satisfying for both you and your conversation partners. I have selected these suggestions from the work of a wide range of communication teachers, therapists and researchers in many fields. While these seven skills are not all a person needs to know about talking, listening and resolving conflicts, I believe they are a large and worthwhile chunk of it, and a great place to begin.

Communication Skills Challenge One:  Listening more carefully and more responsively - acknowledging the feelings and wants that people express in word and mood.  Actively acknowledging another person's experience does not have to mean that you agree or approve. Compassionately allow people to feel whatever they feel.  People are much more likely to listen if they have been listened to with actively expressed acknowledgements.

Communication Skills Challenge Two: Explaining my conversational intent and inviting consent - by using one of 30 basic conversational invitations such as, 'Right now I would like to take a few minutes and ask you about... [subject].'  The more involvement a conversation is going to require of the other person, the more you will benefit by sharing your conversational goal and inviting the conscious cooperation of your conversation partner.

Communication Skills Challenge Three:  Expressing myself more clearly and more completely  - giving your listeners the information they need to understand (mentally reconstruct) your experiences more fully. One good way is to use 'the five I-messages': What/how I (1)observe, (2)am feeling, (3)because I interpret/evaluate/need, and now I (4)want to request, and (5)envision/hope for from request.  Equally good for self-understanding, too. 

Communication Skills Challenge Four:  Translating my criticisms and complaints into requests & and explaining the positive results of having your request granted. Do this for both your own complaints and the complaints that others bring to you. Focusing on the positive outcome shows respect to the recipient of a request as having a positive contribution to make, and shifts focus from past mistakes to present and future successes.

Communication Skills Challenge Five:  Asking questions more "open-ended" and more creatively. "How did you like that movie?" is an open-ended question that invites a wide range of answers. "Did you like it?" suggests only "yes" or "no" as answers and does not encourage discussion. Sincerely asked open-ended questions can open up our conversation partners. (How comfortable are you with this suggestion?)   

Communication Skills Challenge Six:  Thanking. Expressing more gratitude, appreciation, encouragement and delight in everyday life.  In a world full of problems, look for opportunities to give praise.  Both at home & at work, it is the bond of appreciation that makes relationships strong enough to allow for problem-solving and differing needs.  

Communication Skills Challenge Seven:  Focusing on learning...  Make the practices described in challenges 1 through 6 important parts of your everyday living. Pay attention to each conversation as an opportunity to grow in skill, awareness and compassion.  Work to redefine each of your "opponents" in life as a learning and problem-solving partner.  Assist the processes of change in your world by personally embodying the changes, virtues and styles of behaviour you want to see in others.