Communication is the expression of a message between a sender and a recipient. Sounds simple but
, it’s much more complicated than we realize. We communicate in different ways. Some prefer verbal communication, some prefer the written word in email or text, and others prefer to post on social media. There are so many ways to express ideas, yet so many opportunities for our messages to be misunderstood. Healthy work environments foster healthy communication; healthy communication allows involved parties to feel valued and respected and leads to flourishing relationships. In relationships where communication is poor or one-sided, trust and respect erode.
Improve communication with these 4 steps
Try taking these steps towards effective communication to build relationships and connection in your work environment.
1. Think first.
Before you speak, text, email, or post, ask yourself: “Where is this message coming from?” Are you communicating from a place of anger, frustration, fear, desperation, or exhaustion? Communicating from a place of emotion is more likely to lead to misinterpretation. Consider the root of an issue and take time to think about the most effective way to communicate without being perceived as combative, accusatory, apathetic, or insensitive.
2. Body language and tone matter.
Most of us have been on the receiving end of a finger being thrust in our face, a text or email in all capital letters, or an angry stare. When we are angry or frustrated our voice tends to become louder, our body posture becomes more dominant and imposing, and sometimes we enter someone’s personal space. Think about how your body language and tone can alter how your message is being received.
3. Is the recipient ready to listen? Are you?
Listening is the ability to be quiet, hear and understand what a person is trying to say. Listening is hard; especially if you don’t agree with, respect, or trust the person speaking with you. It’s also hard if you’re involved with something else, such as your own emotions or a task in front of you. If you’re trying to communicate with someone and they have their arms crossed, they continue working while you speak, or they are texting and scrolling, they’re too distracted to really hear what you’re saying. Make sure you have the person’s undivided attention before you start communicating with them and that you give your undivided attention to others.
If someone you are trying to speak to is busy, delay the conversation until later. However, if it’s an emergency – say it! Assertively state, “I need two minutes of your time because my patient is doing poorly, and I don’t want them to code,” or, “It’s an emergency and I need to speak to you right away.”
4. Be open to feedback.
Be aware of your posture and tone when someone is responding to you. Think about how you have felt when someone walked away before you had a chance to speak. Communication is a two-way street; to receive open, honest, respectful communication, we need to also offer it.
Communication, like nursing, is both an art and a science.
Communication should take into consideration the way human beings process and respond. It will always contain both a message and emotions, it needs to be centered on respect and trust, and it should be reciprocal and intentional. Prioritize being an effective communicator to improve relationships and outcomes. It is the foundation for all our interactions with our colleagues, our patients, and beyond.