This blog post was written by Marquina Watts, MSN, RN, CNL, who is a Nurse at Independence Plus.
Communication is inevitable. Why is miscommunication an ongoing issue–with your family, friends, co-workers, and even patients? Effective communication is necessary for healthy relationships and to function as an employee. Having a plethora of benefits, effective communication impacts our well-being, including our mental health. Consider the stressors that can result from mal and miscommunication. Between 2009 and 2013, CRICO Strategies reported that communication errors in healthcare contributed to 30% of 23,000 malpractice claims, which included 1,744 deaths and $1.7 billion in hospital costs. Communication is life. How can we be sure that it is effective? Below are 5 keys that can be used to achieve effective communication.
- Be HOT: Honest, Open, and Transparent. Communication begins with honesty. The honesty begins with you. Accept yourself. If you consider yourself to be an introvert and come off as “passive” or an extrovert and come off as “aggressive,” look up methods that will help you adapt in various situations and communicate effectively. It is important to be as transparent and open-minded as possible, even when sharing unwanted or unpleasant information. People cannot predict how you would respond to situations so it is not wise to try and predict others’ responses. For example, withholding information because you are not sure of how someone would respond can potentially be more harmful than beneficial. In life, we have to allow people to play with the cards that are dealt to them.
- Be Empathetic. Think about yourself from another person’s perspective to help shape the way you communicate with them. Listen to hear what the other person is picking up from your communication. After someone feels that they are heard, it may be easier to take in new information. Be quick to listen and slow to speak. Why else would we have two ears and one mouth?
- Remain respectful. Treat others how you want to be treated and do not be quick to judge. Remember that you are a professional and have an opportunity to model respectful communication. When approached with tough or uncomfortable situations, recognize it and do your best to handle it in a graceful manner. You may regret acting unpleasantly, out of emotion. If you felt that you acted out of character, use that situation to reflect and recognize your areas of growth.
- Be accountable for your actions, regardless of the outcome. People want recognition when a positive action has made a huge impact, yet people do not want to admit their Accept your mistakes and own up to them. Leave pride to the side. Apologize when necessary, even when you feel that you will not receive an owed apology in return. Accountability is frequently respected and is great for effective communication. Accountability plays a major role in allowing us to recognize what we need to work on to gain or maintain positive growth. It begins with the #1 key: honesty…with yourself.
- JUST DO IT. What hinders you from communicating effectively? Is it misunderstanding? Don’t care? Unaware? Not sure of how to respond so you avoid saying anything? Get nervous and start babbling? Procrastinate? When it comes to procrastination, you may end up adding unnecessary stressors to yours or someone else’s experience. Afraid of confrontation? If it is confrontation that is holding you back from something, such as, advocating for your patient or yourself, do not assume that it will be a negative experience when it is simply uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Confrontation will likely occur at one point in our careers. Having the courage to face it in hopes of a positive outcome aids in our growth as a person and a professional. In uncomfortable situations, your strength to speak up may actually reveal to others their areas of needed growth.
No one has the perfect communication skills all the time but people can develop effective communication skills that may provide a far-ranging impact and a lifelong opportunity for growth. It is an ongoing process of honesty and self-reflection that begins from within. What impact will you make by the way you communicate?
Bonus key: be approachable!