By Lori Waltz
Director of Training
Mastery of effective communications skills in a busy medical practice is not limited to doctor-patient interaction. After all, only a fraction of the patient’s time in a typical office visit is with the provider. And the majority of their time is with…everyone else.
Verbal communications skills are particularly vital to every face-to-face encounter. Virtually everyone in the office needs to be at the top of their game—in all manner of communications—with patients, family members, professional colleagues, and with fellow staff members.
For one thing, being an excellent communicator—to be able to clearly express ideas or information—is an attribute of leadership and success. Excellence in communications among all medical professionals tends to:
- Reduce errors
- Boost productivity
- Increase job satisfaction
- Contribute to morale and culture
- Create self-satisfaction
- Influence professional reputation
- Shape expectations of others
- Facilitate internal marketing
- Enhance the patient experience
And without these skills, job satisfaction and advancement opportunities can be limited.
The skills of highly effective communicators…
Be listening…not just hearing. Excellence in communications—and formulating an appropriate response—begins with actively listening and having a clear understanding of what’s being said. Use questions, re-state or paraphrase in order to validate what you’ve heard.
Be empathetic. Demonstrate respect for the other person’s feelings and point of view. Empathy shows an understanding of the other opinion, even when you hold a different perspective.
Be friendly. Assuming a kind and positive attitude disarms competitiveness that might otherwise filter or derail understanding. Communicators assume a warm tone of openness and sociability.
Be focused and clear. Messages that are brief, plain and direct—presented in non-technical language—are more easily understood.
Be confident. Information presented with firm authority engenders trust and respect. (But not at the expense of empathy and respect for others.)
Be enthusiastic. The proper amount of personal energy (depending on the circumstances) shows conviction and energizes the subject matter. Enthusiasm and passion are contagious.
Be extremely well informative. Good communicators, who are well informed about their subject matter, are respected as experts. (If you’re not well informed, study-up, but don’t try to fake it.)
Some great communicators seem to have a natural talent and seem to do it effortlessly. In conversation, in public speaking, or in writing, communicators seek to understand and to be understood. And their unspoken secret is that good communicators become great communicators because they regularly practice these and other techniques.
FOR RELATED READING, see: Doctor Marketing Skills: 12 Tips for Effective Presentations and Trade Secrets: How Exceptional Public Speakers Make It Look Easy.