In the first part of a series of blog posts about communication skills, Anthony Blackman of Insight Optical Training gives an overview of the essentials of communication and how we can all improve on different aspects to make our communication as effective and efficient as possible.
A dictionary definition of communication is “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviours”
Communication is a two-way process that involves listening to each other (receiving a message) and asserting/expressing by sending a message. This can be in several ways, such as talking to a colleague, calling a customer on the phone, writing a letter, or sending an email, etc.
The communication cycle in its simplest form:
When communicating there will be certain goals, such as:
- Get and give information
- Get an action/reaction
- Change behaviour
- Ensure understanding
The Benefits of Good Communication
We communicate every day, but some of us are better at it than others! When communicating effectively it enhances your professionalism, it will lead to customers understanding things better, thereby reducing complaints, remakes and boosting company profits. Happy customers will result, as good communication automatically enhances customer service, this will also mean happy staff. Loyalty is also important to any business, so satisfied customers will be loyal and tell people about you, (increasing your reputation) which will keep the practice busier and the staff in employment.
Before we start to look at methods of communication, let us first look at the key components that must be fulfilled for any message being sent, regardless of the channel.
The 7 C’s of Communication
When writing or speaking to someone, be clear about your goal and your message. What is your purpose in communicating with this person? If you’re not sure, then your audience won’t be sure either. Information and actions required must be clear so that the receiver has all the information they need to take action, as you do not want them to have to ‘read between the lines’. Try in minimise the number of ideas that you cover in each sentence; one is ideal.
When you’re concise in your communication, you stick to the point and keep it brief. Do not use six sentences when you could communicate your message in three; as your patients can only absorb so much information in one go. Avoid unnecessary adjectives and filler words like ‘kind of’ or ‘basically’
When your message is concrete, your audience has a clear picture of what you are telling them. There are details (but not too many) with any facts or figures clearly mentioned. Your message is solid, and it will not be misinterpreted.
When your communication is correct, it fits your audience, so you will adapt your communication system differently when talking to a patient, or a colleague. Also, correct communication should error-free. This will make you look polished and professional
- Do the technical terms you use fit your audience’s level of education or knowledge?
- Have you checked your writing for grammatical errors? Remember, spell checkers won’t catch everything.
- Are all names and titles spelled correctly?
When your communication is coherent, it’s logical. All points are connected and relevant to the main topic, and the tone and flow of the communication are consistent. Your audience will not get lost or confused. This is especially true when using technical terms; just thing about the terms varifocal, progressive lens, multifocal and how they are interchanged with each other.
In a complete message, the receiver has everything they need to be informed and, if applicable, act. You will want to give answers to questions the receiver might have within the message. This is most important when summing up at the end of an eye examination.
- Does your message include a “call to action,” so that your audience clearly knows what you want them to do? Do you want them to respond to you?
- Be specific. Have you included all the relevant information – contact names, dates, times, locations, and so on?
Courteous communication is friendly, open, and honest. There are no hidden insults or passive-aggressive tones. You should keep your audience’s viewpoint in mind, and you’re empathetic to their needs. When you’re working in practice we come across a wide range of different people and we need to be accepting and courteous to them all.