On conversation

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.


About Nina F Collins

Educator with an interest in adult learning, the workplace and advanced learning technologies.
This entry was posted in communication, conversation. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On conversation

  1. Brava! welcome to the world of blogging, Nina. Interesting thoughts. This is in the same sort of area as the behavioural stuff as well, isn’t it?

    • Yes, I guess it does fall into the behavioural category. Interpersonal skills form a large part of many UK vocational quals, perhaps because the UK economy is service-based. But I’m not sure that these quals adequately consider the emotional and psychological dimensions of interpersonal skills. Many of the books on the subject of communication and interpersonal skills that were published from the 1980s onwards focused on using these skills to impress people and colleagues as a means of career progress. I don’t know enough about NLP to critique it, but I’ve found that many NLP books on communications in the workplace also focus on tools and technique rather than attitude. Similarly, many communications courses (and I’ve been to a few!) focus on ‘technique’. Even empathy is treated as a tool rather than an a way of thinking or feeling. Perhaps communication tools are also easier for facilitators to teach – I guess feelings and attitude are pretty tricky to address! Maybe learners don’t always want to look inwards either. However, as educators, I think we need to revisit what we teach. Perhaps, we shouldn’t even use the term ‘skills’. We should be striving for better quality relationships and conversations in the workplace.

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