Five Humorous Steps to Effective Communication
Here's the situation. It's an important meeting and you've fallen asleep. "Even though you are asleep, you know," Dr. Robert Buckman told attendees at the May PMCQ meeting, "when they have stopped and they're talking to you."
"When they say 'What do you think?'", continued Dr. Buckman, a world-class expert on inter-personal communication and a medical oncologist at the Toronto-Sunnybrook Cancer Centre. "you stay there and you repeat, 'What do I think? What do I think?' You keep eye contact with each of the meeting attendees in turn and you say 'The one opinion I don't want to hear right now is mine.'"
"People will love you," said Buckman. "I'm a professor of medicine because I never had any opinions."
With anecdotes like these, Dr. Buckman led PMCQ members laughing through a 5-step plan for effective communication. The steps included setting the context for communication, listening, acknowledging emotions, thinking strategically and summarizing discussions.
Creating the proper physical context of communication is an important first step in facilitating effective communication, observed Buckman. The personal space with which individuals feel comfortable varies from culture to culture. Moving too close to someone in Britain will have them thinking you are "in their face", whereas the same personal distance could be mistaken for standoffishness in the Mediterranean.
There are only two listening skills that count, according to Buckman. "When the other person is talking, you shut up and when they stop talking, repeat some of their own words back to them. Repeating a speaker's words is an effective way of making him/her feel understood and "is undetectable in daily use," he added.
One of the steps on which Buckman focused most strongly was acknowledging emotions. "Strong emotions are like strong smells," he remarked, "they need to be acknowledged before their paralyzing effect wears off." The way to do so is by means of the "empathetic response". The empathetic response legitimizes the other person's feelings and establishes emotion as a topic of conversation. For example, in responding to a client angry with a report, you say "The report made you upset."
The strategy step, according to Buckman, involves clarifying what the person you are communicating with wants, identifying what you can provide, and blending the two together by means of a compromise.
The final step is summarizing the main points and any outstanding issues related to the conversation and making arrangements for the next contact.
To see the slide show click here
By Jadzia Jagiellowicz,
Time: 5:30 p.m.