Some of you may remember this year’s first article in this column. It was about Stefanie Skupin from Tonasket, WA, a former veterinarian who created herself a niche as a communicator and facilitator in her company, The Leaders Work, which offers tools that increase self-awareness and reduce stress. And she explained that 80 percent of the human communication “happens behind and around words – body language, facial expression, inclusion into or exclusion from a group, etc.”
For 2022, Stef reacts to a more and more aggressive climate in society with a program that might help us into a more mindful future. Stef came up with the idea of a workshop titled “Courageous Communication 101” because she hears people complaining that they find it hard to have conversations with their family, friends, and colleagues. “Through mass media our opinions are more and more polarized, and the voices in the media that ‘speak for us’ – in favor of the opinion we subscribe to – are getting more aggressive and accusatory”, says Stef. “On both sides, the people who have the opposing opinion are labeled as uncaring, uninformed, misguided, or even plain stupid. Many people withdraw from sharing their opinion because there’s always the risk of being attacked. We often forget that attack and accusation in any conversation are covering up fear.”
Courageous Communication 101 is for people who want to improve their communication abilities as well as those who are done feeling hurt because of what others are saying. The workshop analyzes among others the following topics: What can I do to make sure that I am heard and appreciated? What can I do to feel safe sharing my opinion? How can I make sure that I listen openly and am aware of the other person’s humanity even if they say something I disagree with? “It takes courage to begin improving the world by looking at yourself first”, says Stef. “Once you know what you bring into conversations, you can begin to speak with integrity and also with kindness. Others will listen to you much more readily.”
“Manners are a social construct that’s designed to keep us all comfortable and safe”, Stefanie Skupin reasons. “However, through history we have seen over and over again that ‘manners’ must change as we evolve. We evaluate where the line between ‘bad manners’ and ‘authentic expression’ should be. It takes skill to be able to observe your re-action to being shouted at and not fall into the trap of acting it out, but rather choose a different response.”
Discussing political correctness as a language corset, Stef says: “If I believe that convention and other people’s judgments keep me from thinking and speaking freely, I put myself behind bars right there. Freedom of thought and speech start with the awareness of myself. What is my truth? Who do I want to be in the world? What actions do I choose, and what are my motivations?”
So, why do we lack in courage for free speech? Stef thinks it’s because some keep quiet to keep the peace and others keep quiet out of resentment – why bother? People who do speak out were often seen shouting and pointing fingers. “NOT a good way to change anyone’s mind, but it does work to whip up a following of people who already agree with you,” states Stef Skupin. She is convinced that courageous communication works even when your conversation partner doesn’t make the effort to listen. “Let them know that it’s important for you to share with them. If they still don’t listen, that’s good information for you! This person will not listen to you. Focus your effort on someone else.”
Stefanie Skupin’s class is built around the main process she uses with all her clients, the Work of Byron Katie. Stef has graduated from the School for The Work in Germany in 2012 and has facilitated the Work ever since. “In this class, participants will learn to communicate with courage, skill, and integrity, but not because they have more tools, but because they have more self-awareness and self-knowledge.” The more relaxed people are, the more able they’ll be to communicate well. “I will guide participants to re-evaluate difficult conversations in their lives and find their responsibility and their truth in them. I don’t tell people what to do, I offer participants a way to tap into their inner knowledge and wisdom. Participants will forge new paths ahead that are meaningful in their individual lives out of that knowledge. People will find out what is true for them, rather than being guided by mass media truths. The resultant actions are often much kinder. At the heart of each of us there’s a vast reservoir of kindness.”
Stefanie Skupin’s class is offered in person in Tonasket, but also as a Zoom session – check this link for further details: https://theleaderswork.coachesconsole.com/courageous-communication-101.html. If an entire (business) group wants to have a special session on this topic, please contact Stef at email@example.com .