I give effective communication trainings for companies. When talking about communication skills, one of the two subjects comes to mind:
First of them is emotional intelligence: in short, it is the ability to understand emotions and needs beyond behaviors and to effectively express them.
The second is the ability to use persuasion and presentation techniques to influence people or sell them a product or an idea.
Just as in every case, we handle the concept of communication in partitions. When we analyze each part separately, our minds perceive the whole more easily. We think this approach facilitates our work.
The corporote managers contacting us for their educational needs are focused on the areas which their staff have the most problems with, and they want to elaborate these areas most. This is quite understandable, as corporations spend vast amount of money and time on training.
What is Empathy?
The first of the above matters is commonly referred as “empathy”. And emphaty is often regarded in different meanings. For some of us, empathy is the ability to put ourselves in the shoes of the others, which is technically impossible. We can never place ourselves in someone’s exact position as we have different backgrounds, values and conditions.
Let’s assume for a moment that this is possible and we can put ourselves in someone else’s place. This means that we will be identified with the feelings and thoughts of that person and we won’t be ourselves. In this case, it is not possible to talk about a bi-directional communication, where the receiver of the message and the sender are same.
But if we listen to that person rigorously, with all our being, we can understand how he/she is affected by what he/she experiences and feels, and we can shape our own behavior accordingly. That’s what exactly the empathy is.
Effective Expression of Feelings
The other face of the first subject is the ability to transfer one’s own feelings and needs to the outside world. This is as important as understanding the person before us, as the concept we call “communication” is bi-directional; it consists of receiving and sending the message. It is our first responsibility to deliver our message to the addressee.
I received an invitation today to make a presentation during an event to be held on the 10th-16th of May at the Week for Disability. The presentation was about “How should we treat the disabled people?”
Upon this invitation, I questioned the subject of “empathy” again. Can a normal person exactly understand a disabled person? To what extent this can be possible?
If we formulate the subject, “disability” is just one of the conditions which make some of us different from the others. Meaning, if those who are not disabled with disabilities, fully implement the elements necessary for effective communication, listen to each other fully and recognize the underlying needs in their behaviors, and express their own feelings effectively, they can communicate effectively. In fact, in such a scenario, they can find out some facts that are discovered by psychologists specialized in the field of psychology of the disabled.
Effective Presentation and Persuasion Skill
The second of our subjects includes the art of influence, which is the most popular subject for corporations. This is at least as comprehensive as the first, extending from the correct use of voice and breath to discovering the correct posture of the body, to gestures (body language), to the tactics required to effectively send the message.
Those who wants to succeed are trying to get these skills. This is also quite understandable. On the other hand, I see that corporations sometimes exaggerate this part of the communication, and for this reason, they may overlook some realities.
I remember that a manager of a big corporation, who wanted to get effective communication training for his team, was trying to remove the subject of “empathy” out of training content. His reason was: “The team must develop persuasion skills first; they cannot convince if they make empathy.”
In a communication training I gave to a political group, “empathy” was disregarded and the subject was even modified as “how do we manipulate people; how can we make them do what we want?”
However, in order to persuade, we need to understand the opponent first. According to researches on that, individuals accept the people and objects they can emotionally connect with.
In this article, I see these two parts of communication as two different, hence, necessary aspects of it. To be more precise, both are integral parts of a whole and are concentric concepts.
- After graduating from Boğaziçi University – English Language and Literature Department in 1999, she worked in the field of Human Resources in multinational companies operating in the finance, manufacturing and retail sectors for 13 years. [...cont.]