Communication skills are one of the best working skills
Sometimes the phone ring non stop at the nursing station. It is usually a struggle to understand what people are trying to say. My mantra is “sorry can you repeat that, your voice is breaking up”. Even when the phone is not breaking up can be a struggle, but cell phones are notorious for not cooperating. Bad cell phone connection and broken English is the worst communication disaster I can think of. People from exotic countries and their deep accents combined only being in the U.S. for a few months, bad communication skills to begin with, and a bad cell phone connection is a recipe for communication mayhem. At the other end of the line I try to understand, and I’m also happen not to be a English native speaker.
I think the worst problem here is not English or the phone but just the declining communication skills epidemic going around. People are basically “speaking in text” which works pretty well on your smart phone but sucks if you need a little more complexity. Some calls you just don’t understand because you know little about the situation they are trying to describe. But lack of communication skills doesn’t help.
Some people think you perfectly know what they are talking about. In reality they don’t even know what they want and expect you to come up with the answers when they don’t actually have a clue. People have no idea that you, on the other end of the line don’t even know who the caller is or anything about their life and needs.
Some people need total guidance. So gears must be shifted and you guide that person from the generic to the specific. I treat these callers the same as confused patients. “Sir, first tell me your name”, “what subject do you want to talk about?, Is it about a patient, is it about paper work, your mother? Please give me more information”. There are some callers who are completely off the handle.
The other day I picked up the phone and a loud and voice leaped out “How is my mother!” OK. I love this caller because she is like a brain training for free. The obvious response: “What is your mother’s name?” “what do you mean my mother’s name, don’t you know your patients?!” This caller was not for beginners. She was also angry. She finally conceded in pronouncing her mother’s name but in an inaudible way. Just like reading doctor’s orders, we figured out who was the mother, and that fixed that. Quite simple. Nice for playing games but when you are doing five things at the same time; you just don’t want that.
I which people knew these very simple rules of communication: 1) Say who you are. 2) A brief description of your area of interest. 3) your particular needs within that area of interest. 4) let the person assess the situation and ask further questions. That’s it. I don’t know, but I think all of this electronic online communication is doing a trick on our brains and making us less able to communicate simple tasks in real time. Other problems are also simple pronunciation and diction.
Some people talk inwards, for themselves and not for people on the outside. They have bad pronunciation, and poor choice of words. This is a common problem when English is not your first language. I can talk about this because I am one of them. You can learn English in as little as three months, but to learn the appropriateness of word and their fine meaning can take 20 years. The problem is that once people learn their basic English they tend to just stay there for the most part; people have the perception they are communicating well because English is a fairly simple, and pro business language.
No one pull you into a corner and say “you know, I think your English suck, I barely understand anything you say, you should take a class or something to improve it” No one will do that. No one want to be called a bigot and it is a bigot thing to say so we don’t do it. It is a tricky thing because some people are not as good with languages and they struggle so we need to be patient. But this is not really a exclusive foreign language problem, there are plenty of Americans who can’t speak English either.
I think it all boils down to communication skills and the willingness to be present and assess what other people is thinking and are capable of doing to help you. We are usually in a hurry to get what we want, get it fast and get the hell out. We pay no attention if the other person can do what we need and want, or we pay no attention to the fact that they don’t live inside our head; so in no way they can know what is going on in my head. I also think is all about having a good cooperative attitude when communicating with others. Once that change it actually doesn’t matter what language they might be speaking because you’ll do everything to accommodate the other person and that is the key to all good communication.
- Obstacles to Communication in Health Care Settings: Participant Observation in an Emergency Department and Retail Pharmacy
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