Looking back at my the jobs I've done over the years in the light of what I do now, its natural that the roles in HR spanning 20 plus years required some understanding of people and counselling skills. What is less obvious is that other jobs also had elements of a 'helping' role in them, whether that be in sales or team support. Always fascinated by the dynamics of human connection, skills and knowledge were picked up through osmosis rather than training. It seems a shame that connection skills are not covered in our general education in the same way as maths or sciences. Would I have taken it in as a teenager in a school setting? Possibly. Possibly not. Some skills really do seem to develop better with age and maturity.
So, what are the key things to develop to be more effective at human connection in order to be able to help or work better? I've put together my top 6 areas to develop:
Top 6 skills essential for counselling skills and connection
No 1: Effective Communication
Understanding the basics of communication is crucial for anyone who wants to be more connected or aspires to be more effective in a helping role at work. I have found that being able to create a safe and supportive space for people where they feel heard and understood is key. Many things contribute to this and include are active listening and asking open ended questions. Picking up on non-verbal cues is also important.
No 2: Empathy
Empathy is one those words that can be difficult to define or explain. Essentially, it is the ability to connect with your people on an emotional level, allowing for a deeper understanding of their experiences.
"the ability to understand and share the feelings of another"
No 3: Self-Awareness
Understanding our own biases, values, and limitations allows us to be a more effective and compassionate person. Someone who is aware of their weaknesses and accepts them is more likely to be tolerant of the idiosyncrasies of other people. I definitely see things as having much more blurred edges now. I imagine that being a parent probably helps with this - all those ideals of ways to parenting go out the window when faced with the reality of having very different children.
No 4: Rapport
Building a genuine connection with others helps them feel comfortable and develops trust in the relationship. I've found that it really helps to see the person as an individual and respond to them personally.
No 5: Good Boundaries
Maintaining appropriate boundaries is essential in healthy relationships and particularly when in a 'helping' role. Good boundaries protect us and the people we are helping and help us navigate challenging situations with integrity and professionalism.
No 6: Respect
I appreciate that people are going to disagree with me on many issues. What many of us struggle with (hence the prevalence of trolling online) is that its OK not to agree with others and its OK for us to be different - we are all individuals after all. We can respect another's experiences, backgrounds, point of view and understanding whilst retaining our own individuality. Giving room for difference and diversity gives us a richer life experience.
Whether you are a student, a professional with a helping role, or someone simply wanting to know more about the area of counselling or connection, these essential counselling skills will not only enhance your ability to help others but also contribute to your personal and professional growth. Where you take this next is up to you.
Find out more on our Introduction to Counselling Skills course - a 2 day face to face course covering the areas in my top 6 and much more.
The next course is on 14 and 15 September 2024 in North West Leeds.