Overheard someone tonite say, “I was in communication training this week…” My ears perked up, and I butted in the conversation and inquired as to what sort of training it was and how he liked it. The response was interesting. At least to me.Now granted, our conversation likely took less than 90 seconds, and I was talking to a (forced) participant and not the hiring manager, sending manager, or trainer. But what I gleaned was that this was training on things like how to deal with difficult people, how to listen better, how to offer constructive criticism, how to handle conflict, and how to manage a group of people. This attendee’s response started out as a “I was bored stiff in training all week” and as I showed more interest, became a “I’m glad my company provides such training for me.“As someone who offers “communications training”, the description was not what I expected to hear and my first thought was, “That isn’t communications training, it’s management or people skills training.” As I came home tonite and contemplated if perhaps my banner of “communications skills training” is perhaps missing the intended mark, I was once again struck by just how key communication is in everything we do. I need that reminder from time to time — I get so focused on technique and protocol that I forget that the purpose of communication is to effect change. Get them to buy. Get them to obey. Get them to agree. Get them to consider. Get them to pay. Get them to back off. Get them to do the work.Having been to similiar training classes myself, I have been rather disappointed in the cookie-cutter approaches and the assumptions that all people would respond to the pithy phrases and concerned, practiced looks of empathy matched with a canned, fill-in-the-blank phrasology to bring people around. It totally overlooks Rule #1. Your audience is in it for Numero Uno. Themself. You have to find and meet their need. The technique is immaterial. The phrasology could change every time (or it could be the same). Effective communication takes place on the grounds of your audience.True communication skills transcend the situation. I’d now repackage the training described above as “situational people skills training”. And it’s probably needed. And it’s probably easier to charge for a week’s worth of training rather than just teaching principles that could be applied to every situation (hey, maybe… Nah.)
Never forget who you are talking to; and why.