Improving Safety Through Interpersonal Skills

George’s Safety Reflections – by the late George Robotham 

Improving Safety Using Interpersonal skills

When interviewing OHS professionals many interviewers focus on their technical skills. Frankly I think communications and interpersonal skills are much more important than technical skills. You can be really bright, you can be highly qualified and trained, you can be well read but if you cannot get on well with people and influence them to change, you will be a waste of space as an OHS professional.

I adopt a philosophy that “People Support What They Create” Lots of communication, discussion and identification of needs will give you the buy in you need. A bit of humour never goes a stray AND please get to the point and do not give excessive detail. Focus on the benefits of initiatives to the other person.

When interacting with others you need to try to see the situation from the other person’s perspective and focus on What is in it for me from their view.

The following 3 techniques are invaluable:

Appropriate Self-Disclosure

You will find in a new relationship if you reveal a little bit of you (provided it is appropriate)the other party will reveal a little bit of them (provided it is appropriate), if you then reveal a little bit more of you (provided it is appropriate) they will reveal a little bit more of them (provided it is appropriate), and so the cycle goes on. This is very simple, incredibly effective and I use it all the time to build relationships. Of course if you really hang all your dirty washing out it will probably stuff up the process.

Reflective Listening

This is a very powerful technique to get to the core beliefs of those around you. Someone says something, you may say “If I understand you properly you think x” ,this gives the other party the opportunity to expand on their view or “Correct me if I am wrong but I think you are saying y”

The formula

There will be times others do things that annoy you, often they will have what they think are good reasons for what they are doing and they will have no idea they are annoying you. A good formula for these situations is to express your feelings as follows-

“When you A, I feel B, because C, and I would like you to do D, because E”

The only person who knows how you feel is you and most people will not know how you feel and  many will be happy to adjust their behaviour accordingly. If this does not happen at least you have the basis for ongoing discussion.

I suggest all safety professionals read up on these techniques, it can make your life much easier!

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