Communication Part 2
In the second part of a series of blog posts about communication skills, Anthony Blackman from Insight Optical Training gives an overview of the requirements of effective oral communication.
Previously we looked at what a message needs to be effective and successful. As an optical professional we communicate mostly by speaking to people, our colleagues, and our patients. Therefore, let us take a closer look at this and consider how we can deliver an oral message successfully to our patients.
How loudly you talk and how you project your voice. As we will usually be speaking to patients within a consulting room, we will be very close to the patient.
If you speak too quietly, this shows a lack of confidence, not assertive, and not in control. You also risk not being heard and losing your listener. Of course, we want to maintain privacy and not be heard outside. But if you speak too loudly, this can be seen as rude, aggressive, threatening; not the image we wish to give our patients.
Please do bear a thought for those patients with a hearing impairment; make sure you know which ear is their best ear so that you can talk to their better side. Also, ensure that your face is well lit, not obscured and that you are facing the patient, as this will help them to lip read and reduces the chances of them misunderstanding your words.
We vary the pitch of our voice to add interest to it. If we spoke in a monotone way, then people would stop listening to us, they would be bored, and we would be perceived as uninterested and boring too. So, vary your pitch and you will add emphasis to your word, so your patients will listen to every word you say and pay closer attention to the instructions you give them.
We vary the pitch of our voice to add interest to it. If we spoke in a monotone way, then people would stop listening to us, they would be bored. People would perceive us as uninterested, and boring too. So, vary your pitch and you will add emphasis to your word, so your patients will listen to every word you say and pay closer attention to the instructions you give them.
Pronunciation is all about the clarity with which you speak, and patter being the words you use, which will influence how the recipient understands the conversation. So, we need to be careful of jargon, think about when you speak to an optometry colleague and not a patient e.g. progressive lenses versus varifocals. We usually adapt our conversation to our audience, and this is most apparent when speaking to children. If we use jargon, this will not be understood by the patient and will cause confusion. Think about when we say ‘astigmatism’ or ‘blepharitis’ or ‘macular degeneration’, these words will seem complicated to patients, and not only should you speak them clearly to be understood, you will need to follow them up with explanations; diagrams can help with this.
Pauses in talking are vital to good communication as they allow time for the patient to catch up and for the information to sink in, as well as allowing them an opportunity to reply. Remember you want patients to ask questions if they have any or to ask questions if they are unsure of what you have said.
A short pause will also add emphasis to the sentence you have just said. But if you leave too long a pause then the patient will think that the conversation is over and switch off.
As healthcare professionals, we will be telling our patients very important information, about their eye health and what they can do to maintain or improve it. Therefore, we must communicate this information to them correctly, and in a way that they will understand it (remember the 7 C’s from part 1). However, there is a lot to be said for providing additional information in the form of leaflets. There are many sources for these e.g. the professional bodies (The AOP and the College of Optometrists), as well as the charity sector e.g. RNIB and IGA, but also your local sight loss charity. Also check with your suppliers, such as the contact lens or eye drop companies too. These leaflets will reinforce what you have said.
Finally, do not forget to record what information you gave the patient; not only is this best practice, but it will help you next time you see the patient and follow up on the advice you gave them.
The AOP and College of Optometrists offer a wide range of patient information leaflets free to members.
Anthony Blackman MSc BSc(Hons) FBDO(Hons) is co-founder and director of training at Insight Optical Training. He can be contacted directly via [email protected]
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You can read Anthonys other news article below!