Author: Jenny Medland, Student Experience Officer & Suzanne Jacobs, Assistant Registrar - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
See one, do one, teach one… apparently the same rule applies to training! Having attended useful externally delivered training sessions on how to have productive Difficult Conversations and Emotional Intelligence and Mindfulness in the Workplace our line manager suggested that we develop a joint presentation for other Faculty colleagues on what we had learned. There was such a natural overlap between the topics we agreed that this would be a good idea. This meant, amidst all the excitement of the run up to Christmas, we ended up sitting in front of a computer screen trying to work out the best way to consolidate two days of wide-ranging training into an hour session.
In our planning meeting, we started by sharing our key takeaways from our respective sessions. This was done in order to identify a shared message: the importance of being empathetic and ‘mindful’ both in discussion with others and in reflecting on our own behaviour. We didn’t want to overload attendees with information and ideas, so identifying this message helped keep the session focused and succinct. We were also keen to emphasise why the session and concepts discussed would be useful to attendees – they help in managing stress and improving working relationships and communication – to show the value of the techniques discussed. Finally, we wanted to make sure the training had lots of practical exercises to avoid it feeling like a dry lecture to our peers and to instead give an opportunity for discussion and the sharing of ideas and advice.
We began our talk by defining Emotional Intelligence (EQ) (an individual’s abilities of recognising, understanding and choosing how they think, feel and act) and Mindfulness (paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgementally), discussing how they are important in helping manage stress and improving relationships. We gave attendees a quiz to help them assess their own EQ to help contextualise these potentially abstract concepts, and provided a list of links and resources for those interested in finding out more.
For the second half of the talk, we used Mindfulness and EQ as tools to be applied in managing difficult conversations more productively, offering a practical application of what can be seen as an abstract concept. Using three key ‘types’ of Difficult Conversations, we spoke about how being self-reflective (identifying and developing your own stressors, strengths and weaknesses) and empathetic (sensitive and open to the other’s perspective) can help. We then ended by splitting the room into groups of three who roleplayed a scenario of a difficult conversation, where participants had to apply these skills.
We both found running this session really helpful in cementing our own understanding and processing of the training and ideas discussed. It was also interesting to be able to share ideas and perspectives with colleagues, both in the training session itself and in developing the session together beforehand. While there was a limit to the amount of detail or practice possible in such a short session, the feedback from the participants was really positive. A number of people indicated that they would endeavour to be more mindful and EQ aware in their subsequent conversations and working relationships. Many also indicated that they would be seeking further details after the meeting, following up on some of the additional sources of information provided.