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So Ya’ Think You Heard Me? The Art of Good Communications.

What is your most embarrassing moment, a time when your  good communications skills were lacking?  Misspelling an important name or word on an interoffice communication?  An open zipper?  Realizing that another human being needed to be acknowledged, to be given the proverbial “thumbs up” or a “virtual hug”—and you—completely missed their signals.

When Good Communications Matter

Road to Effective CommunicationBetween commencement ceremonies and tornado reports, the importance of good communications and the concepts of empathy and life’s perspectives have given me pause for reflection.  As a marketing strategist, these events have further emphasized both the science and art of good communication—situations where you must truly speak from the heart and soul of another individual.

The radio ad which references “Prostrate cancer affects your whole family” does a great job capturing that emotional impact that illness has on both the individual patient and on their extended family unit.

A news reporter covering the Oklahoma tornado addressed his experience in speaking with victims about the things they lost and about the mundane paperwork that identifies who to call when…

“Many people”, he said, “answered the question not with a list of what they lost but rather a list of what they still had.  They still had family members, hope, spirit; they shared fear, disbelief, and confusion.”

After further editorial commentary, the punch line of the story was as much about making donations as it was about finding ways to show compassion for those in the tornado damaged geography—finding ways to show this community that there are people who truly understand the varied emotions they have and will experience.  Finding that common ground will be the key to maintaining hope and establishing the direction to rebuild.

Showing that you have walked in the shoes of another takes patience; sometimes it is humbling.  Medical training has come to include course work on admitting to a medical mishap.  Research has shown that a doctor’s apology goes a long way toward mitigating the litigation and family anger.

A NYTimes article called “My Near Miss” addresses the need to ease the shame and fear that comes with medical errors so that the issues can be addressed and avoided in the future.  This can only be done when other professionals in the industry admit their own understanding and vulnerability to the issues and talk about such firsthand.  Real progress will come from acknowledging the signals and showing that you, too, can truly speak from the heart on the subject.

At a recent conference about family caregiving, I met someone who runs an initiative at a major NYC hospital.  This professional deals with chronically ill patients and their families.

Good Communications and that “Ah-ha” Moment

She shared a heartfelt story:  recognizing the importance of the discharge plan and the patient homecare, this hospital professional spoke about the untold number of hours she spends speaking to people about subjects that have nothing—nothing—to do with the patient.  Puzzled, I asked for more details, and she gave me the “ah-ha moment.”

In the context of what she does, letting someone speak about anything they want provides an opportunity for them to find equilibrium.  It allows them to open up their brain power to clearer thinking and provides a form of self healing.  With my business background and Type A personality, I could not help but ask how this meets the objectives of the Accountable Care Act, the penalties for readmissions, the needs of a short-staffed hospital, and all the other home healthcare challenges.

“How could you let someone ramble for two hours about baseball or fishing when you need to speak with them about insurance programs, home healthcare agencies, medication management, follow-up appointments with the doctors, and more?”   I asked.

The ah-ha moment:  if you assist someone in finding a place of logic, rationality, and calm, they will be better able to internalize the discharge plan.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give to one another is acknowledgment.  To do this necessitates finding a common language.  No matter what industry or situation, our only hope of successful communications is that which is defined by seeing the world through the eyes of another. Ah-ha.

In the spirit of strengthening the communications plans we build for ourselves and our clients in this hyperconnected environment, I have given pause to the time we truly spend understanding the journey of those to whom we speak.

So ya’ think you heard me?

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About Sharon Lewis

Sharon Lewis is an independent consultant specializing in marketing and communications strategies. She is passionate about enhancing the client experience and adept at turning opportunities into products, sales force support, training, and multi-channel communications. Sharon sits on the Leadership Committee of MENG NYC and was recently appointed to the Executive Council of AARPNY. Follow her @sharonlewisnyc.

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