This article in a paragraph
I’m feeling excited about shifting my focus from software engineering towards Interpersonal Communication Coaching. This means that I’ll spend more and more time enabling people to have more effective conversations. We’ll do this by training the “communication skills muscle” to a level that will allow anyone to handle their difficult conversations gracefully. Interested in a preview session?
My journey towards effective communication
It all started about two years ago when a friend gave me a copy of Crucial Conversations. As I slowly read the book, a new world opened in front of me. In this world, I discovered a mental model that would allow me to handle any discussion well, no matter how difficult it would be. I got excited about this model because I always felt uneasy and shy with difficult conversations, most of the time avoiding them and the rest of the time handling them poorly. My conversations started to improve immediately: I began to listen carefully to the other and became more explicit when expressing my ideas. If you know me personally, you might have noticed this change for the better. At times, I found myself falling into subtle learning traps (at some point, I wanted everyone to talk to me according to “the book”). The book over-delivered, and it left me with the regret and frustration that I found this information so late in my life. Why didn’t any of my friends or work colleagues mention this stuff before? Why didn’t I learn this in any of my 18 years of formal education? I couldn’t find an answer to these questions. All I knew was that I wanted to learn more about effective communication and that I wanted to share all these fantastic ideas with others.
After I finished the Crucial Conversations book, I found Nonviolent Communication (NVC). I started learning and practicing it, and the mental model that I used for daily communication grew and solidified. This was helped by a lot of self-reflection, emotional processing, and regular practice. Do you recall how you felt when you bought your first good-quality sports equipment, having had cheap equipment? Were you feeling light? Comfortable? Did you feel empowered and ready to go into pro sports? That’s how I felt after a couple of NVC training sessions. That’s when I decided to start changing how I view and engage in all conversations. It’s going to be a lifelong project, and I’m feeling excited about it. During this journey, I’ve already integrated the worldview that I’m the only one responsible for my feelings and needs. I’ve also discovered that I’m more patient and curious during difficult conversations, even if sometimes I still handle them poorly. But something’s changed: now I have the confidence that I can repair a conversation that went sideways. I’ve learned to honestly say sorry, even if it took a couple of days to get over myself. I’m enjoying the journey, and I believe that the NVC model can enrich anyone’s life. Again, I find myself wanting to share these ideas.
Interpersonal Communication Coaching in practice
Here I am, feeling this strong drive to share what I’ve been learning. And to learn from the experiences of others what works and in which context. My goal is to understand what interpersonal communication models are out there, how they fit together, and what their assumptions and pitfalls are. And, most importantly, how can I bring this mix into the world in a coherent and simple form?
Interpersonal Communication Coaching! This is the form that I was looking for. Let me tell you how it works.
There is plenty of advice on the internet and in books on saying no, assertiveness, active listening, influencing, negotiating, and so on. When it comes to communication, the issue that I’m seeing is that reading the advice is not enough to make you more effective. Leaving the emotions part out of it, I can compare communication with swimming. I learned how to swim as an adult, and I started with a book on swimming effortlessly. The book got me excited and eager to get in the water, but it still took a few months in the pool before I could swim decently. I believe it’s the same with interpersonal communication skills: despite reading the advice mentioned above, my ability to communicate effectively improved little. It was the practice (groups and one-to-one) that increased my ability to handle difficult conversations well.
During Interpersonal Communication Coaching sessions, the focus will be on deliberate practice. We’ll take situations from your work or personal life or build real-life scenarios and practice various communication skills. I’ll be your sparring partner and coach. I’ll bring a set of ideas, techniques, and skills that we can practice with, and you’ll decide which one we’ll work with. If you already have something you’re struggling with or want to experiment with, we’ll work with that. Our goal is to make you a professional communication athlete. Interested?
Interpersonal Communication Coaching defined
In my experience, most misunderstandings in communication arise from different parties having different definitions for the same words. My way of countering this problem is to clarify what the important words mean, even if the exercise seems trivial.
Interpersonal. I chose to focus on communication between two persons: you and your conversation partner. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, compared to one-to-many, there’s plenty of improvement we can do at a one-to-one level, it’s lower risk, and the feedback loop is shorter. I believe that these conditions facilitate learning. Secondly, my current training is focused on one-to-ones. I enjoy this setup, and I’ve got so much more to learn about it. Knowing that a single person is enough to change the dynamic of a group reassures me that I’ll make a valuable contribution to anyone’s learning.
Communication. I understand communication as the totality of all interactions between people (online, real-life, verbal, non-verbal, one-to-one, and one-to-many).
Coaching. Think of an athletic coach. We will identify together what your present obstacles are or what you want to improve. I’ll make suggestions, we’ll practice, we’ll reflect, we’ll revise, and we’ll practice again. I chose this approach because I believe that the knowledge that will take your interpersonal communication to the next level is already available in the form of books or online articles. It just needs to get into your communication muscle memory. We’ll co-create your development process, and once you have reached your goal, we’ll continue on our separate ways.
For a short while, I will be dedicated to talking to people from all kinds of organizations about specific questions they have or problems they’re encountering in their interpersonal communication. During such a talk, we’ll practice, chat, and I’ll often offer suggestions or reflections that could make a difference on the spot. If you’re interested in such a session, schedule it here.
These 45-minute sessions are free, and I can afford to do one or two of them. For those of you that have greater needs, we can make a coaching arrangement.