In a workplace setting, you are responsible for your own communication, actions, and behaviours. You should begin by engaging in self-reflection. Start by thinking about your personal values concerning communication. What factors do you believe are important in shaping how you communicate effectively? How do you speak with others? What bothers you or empowers you within a communication encounter? What are your strengths when communicating with another person? What are some areas for improvement in your communication? Consider how your strengths and barriers may influence a communication encounter. For example, how do barriers influence your capacity to engage in communication and your capacity to deliver and receive a message?
Some of your communication barriers may be very personal and may have developed when you were a child. Reflect on the following questions:
- Do you rely on informal speak patterns, such as slang, colloquialisms, and abbreviations (e.g., “What’s the bottom line?” or “Come again?”)?
- Do you engage in excessive use of first-person pronouns or delaying expressions (e.g., “I think that maybe, well I wonder if the person needs to be assisted, you know?”)?
- Do you get nervous when speaking to another person or speaking in a group of people? If so, how does that affect your communication? Do you avoid talking or stumble over your words? Do you avoid eye contact?
- Do you speak quietly to the extent that others have difficulty hearing you?
- Do you have communication quirks such as saying “like” or “umm” a lot?
- Do you become distracted easily and lose your point when talking?
- Do you lack focus and go off on an unrelated tangent and talk too much?
- Do you rely on jargon?
- Do your emotions influence your capacity to engage in communication effectively?
- Are there any cultural differences that might affect your communication with another person?
- Do you feel you lack credibility?
- How do you feel about speaking up on issues that you are concerned about when people around you do not share the same view?
- Are you comfortable seeking resolution with another individual that has authority or power?
Next, reflect on the professional values of communication and nursing that you strive to achieve. You may consider these in the context of the nursing role and what is expected of you as a nurse. For example, competencies for entry-to-practice involve roles associated with being a communicator, an advocate, a collaborator, and a leader (College of Nurses of Ontario [CNO], 2018). Each of these roles will require you to communicate and use a variety of strategies, including conflict resolution, to “create and maintain professional relationships” (CNO, 2018, p. 6).
Some of your communication barriers may be related to your professional capacity. Reflect on the following points:
- What do you see as collaborative behaviour within an interprofessional encounter? How can you be confident that your communication is clearly understood by other individuals in a teamwork setting (especially those who have a different training background)? How can you help others understand your role as a nurse or nursing student?
- Think of a situation in which you were able to respond assertively and non-assertively to someone in a professional environment. What factors aided and hindered your ability to be assertive?
- Practice positive self-talk. Healthcare professionals are often hyper-aware of our own errors and assume our colleagues are as well. Consider what contributes to your self-perception as a professional – what is realistic and what is exaggerated?
- Ensure consistency in verbal and non-verbal communication: reflect on how your non-verbal reactions correspond with the interprofessional context and the verbal communication. Do your thoughts pervade your actions and get inadvertently communicated to others?
- When possible, start by speaking with the colleague with whom you are in conflict. Gossip and rumours often begin with the compulsion to share. Are you more likely to talk to someone directly or talk to others about a problem? Use ‘I’ statements when possible. These statements require you to express what you think or feel, instead of simple projection on a colleague or (mis)identification of their motives/behaviours.