Building Resilience Through Effective Communication
Soldiers engage in a role-playing scenario during a Counseling Enhancement Course training exercise at Fort Sill, Okla. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army Photo) VIEW ORIGINAL

Honest and effective communication is integral to building strong teams and strong leaders. Effective communication skills can help people master the art of having difficult conversations with ease, make their ideas heard, and earn the respect of their peers or subordinates.

Through many conversations with the command team in Hawaii, Master Resilience Trainer-Performance Experts Meg Helf and Stephanie McGrath began to receive a lot of information about the need to improve relationships in the Army. According to McGrath, it was important to find what the driving factor was behind issues affecting Soldiers such as suicide, low morale, behavioral issues, relationship breakdown, and lack of motivation. It appeared that a contributing factor was lack of communication and one of the fundamental ways to improve relationships is through communication.

“Communication is the building block of relationships. It involves a two-way conversation, how do we actively listen–listening to understand and not respond– what does empathy look like when we express it,” said McGrath. “How do we get to understand someone and create an environment where they feel comfortable to come back and speak to you expressing themselves regardless of the issue.”

MRT-PE and course instructor Shawn Saylors added, “Relationships are the backbone to the military. In order to improve and strengthen it you have to be the best version of yourself.”

Rather than reinvent the wheel or look at outside resources, Helf and McGrath decided that the easiest way to remedy communication issues at the unit was to use the Army-required monthly performance counseling sessions as a springboard to bridge the communication gap and improve relationships between Soldiers and leaders. After having multiple discussions with different units and commanders about who was being counseled, how they were being counseled and if it was effective, they found that monthly counseling sessions were not being conducted regularly and if they were, they weren’t as effective as they could be.

Helf and McGrath wanted to change the narrative that performance counseling was negative or that it meant something was wrong or someone did something wrong, and instead emphasize why performance counseling sessions are actually positive; it’s where leaders check-in with and get to know their Soldiers and help them with their career progression.

Based on their research and field work, Helf and McGrath decided to specifically target ways to enhance and improve how Soldiers and leaders counsel in their jobs. When the Counseling Enhancement Course was developed, the idea was to help Soldiers and leaders improve the way they communicate and relate to one another.

This interactive 3-day course includes learning fundamental counseling techniques, resilience skills and practical activities that are based on the skills outlined in ATP 6-22.1. What makes this course unique is that Soldiers and leaders participate in real life scenario-based counseling sessions. They learn an R2 skill in real time through role play and apply it while receiving ongoing feedback to improve their understanding of human behavior. The course also helps bring awareness to body language and tone, managing emotions, and controlling reactions.

The skills taught in this course can help those seeking to improve the way in which they communicate with others, how they perceive others, and help those looking to help someone in need initiate those “hard conversations” whilst being respectful, empathetic, and understanding.

For more information about the CEC course or to schedule training, visit: https://www.armyresilience.army.mil/ard/R2/I-Want-to-Schedule-Training.html.