A nurse, Maria, was working in the ICU. There were 8 patients with 4 nurses. The acuity was very high and for everything that needed to be done for each patient, they needed more staff. One patient coded and 2 nurses were assisting with the code while the other 2 nurses were caring for the remaining 7 patients. One of the remaining patient’s condition was deteriorating and it went unnoticed. That patient coded and died. The nurse was so upset, she took the code sheet and slammed it on her manager’s desk and said “This is what happens when we don’t have enough staff.”
Communication is a two-way street. The communicator is not only responsible for sending the information but for making sure that the receiver properly heard the information. The listener is responsible for actively listening and accurately hearing the information.
But with many of us our brains at times go on auto-pilot and we communicate without really saying anything. Or we communicate out of a reaction, like Maria. In these cases, we’re not really so concerned about whether the listener heard and understood the information we said.
Other times when we communicate, we’re not really listening as much as we’re thinking about how to respond or what to say next.
To get the results you want when you communicate, I suggest that you not do it from a reactive standpoint. You should think through your communication and be proactive. Decide what you want to create when you share the communication. Unfortunately, many of us who communicate from a reactive standpoint find it will create animosity between the two people.
By thinking in advance about what you want to create will help you find the words and the proper tone to communicate effectively.
Had Maria just taken a couple of minutes to cool down, she would have had the opportunity to think what she wanted to create with her supervisor. It probably would have been “I want to talk to you about my last shift. I was wondering if it was possible that we could work together to figure out a way to get more staff when the acuity is higher? And I’m sure that you’d want that too because, as you know, this patient lost his life because we couldn’t be everywhere. So, can we work together on this? Because I know you want the best for the patients too.”
Those responses rather than slamming down the code sheet on her boss’s desk and ranting would have received a whole different reception.
So, keep in mind when you next want to communicate something important, think about how you will be more responsible for the communication delivered and making sure that the listener received it can best communicate. Think about what you want to create from the communication and ask yourself if you are approaching your communication with that end in mind.