A core foundation of every successful person is the ability to communicate effectively. Good communication skills are often cited as the most important skills organizations look for in their employees. However, many people struggle to communicate effectively with each other in their work environment.
Successful nurses understand this and spend time improving their ability to communicate effectively.
There are 4 communication styles: assertive, passive, passive-aggressive and aggressive. Each style can be described by honesty and consideration. For example:
Aggressive – Oh, she’s honest and may even get right in your face but she isn’t very considerate.
Passive – People who use this style are VERY considerate but are not always honest.
Passive-aggressive – Neither honest or considerate (smile to your face but then stab you in the back as soon as you turn around!!)
Assertive – Both honest AND respectful.
Although every human has his/her natural style, the only style you should be using in healthcare is the ASSERTIVE style – period.
What are the key principles behind assertive communication?
When someone speaks using the assertive communication style, they are both honest and respectful at the same time. Think about it. How many times do we avoid telling someone the truth because we don’t want to hurt his/her feelings or we don’t want to challenge someone – especially a physician or your boss? Or, we let things build up to the point where we’ll be honest but not in a respectful way.
You can probably see how whether or not you’re honest and respectful can impact the work environment.
Nurse who use the assertive communication style adhere to the following behaviors:
· They use direct communication (instead of talking about someone behind his/her back)
· Are active, reflective listeners
· Offer direct eye contact
· They are very self-aware and non-judgmental
· And have a relaxed posture
ACTION STEPS TO COMMUNICATE USING ASSERTIVE STYLE
1. Pause before you speak – this is the most powerful step. Pausing allows you to think and craft your response in a thoughtful way. Think, “What are the goals? What are my options? How can I communicate in a way that’s honest and respectful?”
2. Use scripting– phrases such as, “I’m concerned about…” or “Help me to understand…” or “I’m not sure you’re aware… can be extremely helpful when trying not to put the other person on the defense.
3. Be aware of your body language – sometimes your body language is more powerful than the words you use. For example, when talking with someone, always be at his or her level. If they’re sitting down, you sit down. If they are standing up, you stand up. Leveling the playing field always supports assertive communication.
Nurses who work on improving their communication skills succeed. Period. Maybe it’s time to work on yours.
“The way we communicate with other and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.”~Anthony Robbins
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