Last month I attended a workshop facilitated by the excellent Roman Krznaric at the School of Life. The workshop was about conversations and conversing; and I had enrolled on it because I was dissatisfied with my conversational skills. The workshop was great. Rather than focusing on particular tools and techniques, it got participants to reflect on their attitudes to conversation. It has made me rethink the conversations I have with neighbours and people in my local community, and by extension, my relationship with them. The workshop has also made me reflect on the approaches we educators take to communication and interpersonal skills development. I have worked with health professionals and internal auditors, and communication skills are critical to both professions. I have developed courses with colleagues designed to develop communication skills. On reflection we have tended to focus on tools and techniques rather than attitude. Perhaps the word ‘skills’ itself encourages a focus on the outward – technique – rather than the internal – attitude and emotion. It is time that those of us involved in teaching and developing professionals shift our focus to the latter. By doing so we can help improve the quality of conversations between working professionals and their clients and colleagues.
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