Nurses, on a scale of 1 to 10, how good of a communicator would you say you are? Maybe a six? Or a seven? Maybe you’re feeling pretty confident on your nursing communication skills and would say an eight.
What if the question was, “How good of a communicator are you in the ‘heat of battle’ when you completely disagree with the other person’s point of view?”
Does that change your rating? Did it rise or fall?
The sad reality is that there are very few good communicators in this world.
If you can master the skill of being a good communicator, you will be in the top 5 to 10 percent of any profession, including nursing.
The definition of a good communicator is: openly and honestly expressing your thoughts and feelings while allowing the other person to openly and honestly express their thoughts and feelings.
The key words here are 'openly' and 'honestly'.
This is more than being nice and respectful, or just getting along. It is creating an atmosphere for open dialogue, sharing ideas, hopes and dreams, listening to each other, and problem solving, together.
Communication is stifled by all types of bad habits:
Now is the time to 'grow up'.
In order to eliminate these bad habits, you have to first acknowledge that everyone struggles with them. You have developed them over a lifetime (perhaps for good reason). You need to be honest with yourself, thoughtfully work to remove these habits, and create a positive atmosphere of communication for nurses.
Here are five essential techniques to becoming a good communicator:
Disarming sounds like this: “You’re right. I often make mistakes.”
Thought empathy sounds like this: “I want to get this straight. Are you angry with the way I spoke to you?”
Feeling empathy sounds like this: “You seem very hurt and frustrated with me.”
Inquiry sounds like this: “Can you give me an example?”
“I Feel” statements sound like this: “I feel upset.”
Stroking sounds like this: “I really appreciate how much you care about your patients.”
No one is born a good communicator. It is a skill that is developed with practice. Consider writing these five essential techniques on an index card and carrying them around for a few weeks. This will give you a chance to practice each one until you have them mastered.
Being skilled with nursing communication is not about the other person’s response; it’s 100% about your response.
Burns, D. (1999). The Feeling Good Handbook. Penguin Putnam Inc. New York.