Hello SOTGC community!
It is an unequivocal fact of life that our human interactions on a day-to-day basis add fulfillment, insight, meaning and interest to our existence as human beings. As social beings, much of what we draw from are experiences of life comes from our everyday exchanges with those around us, many of which involve some type of communication with others.
I feel beyond blessed by the degree to which my Medical School training has thus far put me in close proximity, all at once, with the beauty, resilience, vulnerability, vibrancy and complexity of human life. When you work with people who are battling sickness, you are interacting with people in one of their most vulnerable states and are entrusted with their life stories. Communication is beyond key in this type of unique interaction; not only is it important to grasp the essence of a patient’s history of presenting illness, but also it is beyond essential that one truly understands an individual’s fears, concerns and goals of care.
Good communication is an asset in many aspects of life, whether it be at work or in our personal relationships with friends, family and loved ones. Here are 3 lessons that Medical School has taught me about achieving good communication; lessons that extend far beyond the medical world!
- Be comfortable with silence.
We often find ourselves entrapped in a hectic lifestyle where we are constantly on the go, filling each and every moment with a task and often filling every silence with words, even if these words may be “empty” in meaning and value. Don’t get me wrong…one cannot properly enjoy a cocktail party without some small talk and discussing the weather can be the perfect ice breaker with a stranger at the bus stop. It is, however, important to also acknowledge the strength that can evolve from being comfortable with silence sometimes. Sometimes silence means being patient; it may be exactly what is required to allow the other person to gather their thoughts and express themselves. Sometimes during a difficult situation or when you are consoling someone, words may not be the best solution; a simple hand on the other person’s shoulder and offering a tissue may be the therapeutic type of communication that is needed. Sometimes silence allows you to reflect on your own place in a given conversation. Silence can allow for being mindful of the body language and nonverbal cues that are characterizing a given exchange. Silence in and of itself has the capacity to carry great strength as a tool in achieving good communication.
- Learn to really listen.
Listening, really and truly listening, can make all the difference when it comes to achieving good communication. Actively listening is very different from the act of passively “hearing” during a conversation. Actively listening involves allowing the other person to finish their thoughts and trying not to plan out a script in your mind of what you hope to say next in the meantime. Really listening to someone entails being mindful of the nuances of what is being said; what is the person really trying to convey? Truly listening means taking what is being said not only at face value, but attempting to read in between the lines to develop a deeper understanding of the matter at hand; what is the person’s body language trying to communicate and how is what is being said affected by the person’s past life experiences. When true listening takes place, the person who we are exchanging words and ideas with feels validated and valued, allowing them to open up to us not only in the present moment but also in the future.
- Everyone has a story.
If there is one important thing about human interactions that I have come to truly appreciate and love through medicine is the fact that each and every person that you come across has a story. Each and every one of us is a compilation of our past life experiences, our present passions and our future aspirations. Next time you engage anyone in conversation, whether it be on the plan or in the board room, keep in mind that you are talking to a unique individual who has an equally unique story to tell. Realizing this simple fact adds special meaning to communication with others; it allows us to appreciate communication as a true gift that we have the privilege to engage in every single day. Seeing communication as beautiful allows one to treasure it and thus practice it in the best possible way.
My dearest SOTGC community, I hope this post has inspired you to treasure communication and optimize the way you practice communication in your day-to-day interactions with others. If this post resonated with you, share it with your friends, family and colleagues on Facebook and Twitter! We’d also love to know whether you tried any of these ideas and how you enjoyed it! Your experiences are always welcome.