How to communicate effectively with others

Many have advocated the use of people-centered skills since the founding work of Carl Rogers,1 but few describe the specifics, in particular, to be empathetic.

Our research in the State of Michigan in medical education has generated strong evidence of specific ways of being person-centered. I will describe them here as they apply in typical everyday conversations.2

CDC: Two people talking

Source: Creative Commons CC0 license

Exchanging meaningful information and building a relationship go hand in hand: good communication breeds good relationship, good relationship breeds good communication. Identifying and responding to another’s emotions arbitrates the process.

Try the skills I’m about to describe with someone you barely know as well as, say, your spouse, kids, or boss. It will surprise you. For example, after using person-centered skills with his wife, one of my students revealed his amazement at his response: “This is the best conversation we’ve ever had, it seemed like you were really up to it. listen and you care what I was saying. “

The key is to listen carefully, but not passively. In general, keep your own ideas to yourself, paying close attention to comments the other person makes about themselves and issues that are important to them. What they say may not sound particularly exciting, maybe not even very interesting, but it is important to them, so don’t interrupt your story. If someone is worth talking about, they are worth listening to.

To actively listen, first show your interest by making eye contact and leaning forward slightly. Then initiate the conversation with a variation of “How are you?” Or “How are you?” Then bring out the concerns and ideas you hear them express, perhaps saying something like, “Tell me about your (work, school, retirement)”. Or just rephrase – echo – what they just said, for example, “Your job is not doing well”, or “Your classes suck” or “You have to retire”. These comments let the other person know that you are interested, that they are following what they say, and that you want them to continue on the same path.

Finding the emotion of the other is the height of interaction.3 Therefore, continue the conversation using similar encouraging comments, keep your ear tuned for information that might have an underlying emotion. Then focus the person on those comments, for example saying, “Tell me about your dog dying / losing your privileges in the gym / not having your opinion.” A word of caution: people often mention a potentially emotional topic and quickly move on to another topic, perhaps “testing the water” to see if you will respond and want to learn more about the emotional issues that are important to them. . So listen carefully and bring them back to any emotionally charged issues.

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Camille Pissarro (1830-1903): Conversation

Source: CC-PD-Mark

Once you’ve reached the most tension-laden material and digged a little deeper into developing some understanding of the situation, it’s time to identify the emotion or feeling that comes with it; for example: “How did you feel when your dog died? Or “How did you feel when you couldn’t exercise at the gym?” Or “How emotional did you feel when you waited and they didn’t ask for your recommendation?” Then try to better understand the feeling they are expressing, “Tell me more about being depressed when she passed away / angry about the virus that shut down the gym because people won’t get their injections.” / are upset about doing all the work and being ignored. “

Sometimes, however, it is not that easy. The person will not express emotion when you ask them. They might say, “I don’t know, nothing I guess, our family just didn’t talk about feelings. But you probe a little deeper, for example, saying something like “If that was me, I might be upset,” of course, only saying that if it’s true. When you dig deeper this way, use less extreme emotion, like “upset” or “distressed” rather than more frightening terms like “angry” or “depressed” that may put people off. Alternatively, instead of indicating how it would affect you, you could refer to someone else, perhaps commenting, “My brother was really upset when he got a bad check and had to pay” , again, only if it’s really true.

If you still haven’t felt an emotion and someone seems upset, it’s normal to observe something like, “I can tell by the look on your face that you were upset.” The efforts I have described usually elicit one or more emotions; again, ask them to elaborate so that you develop a better understanding of the context of their emotional problem. On the other hand, if you still haven’t identified an emotion, that’s okay. Let it go. Don’t make someone feel uncomfortable by pressuring them.

Now you probably have someone expressing being, for example, upset, sad, happy, angry, or depressed. What are you doing? You make verbal statements of empathy. This maximizes your connection with the other person. Here are some examples using an easy-to-remember mnemonic—nurse. This means NOTme, Uunderstand, Rrespect, and Ssupport :

NOTfollow the emotion:

  • “So it makes you sad (depressed, angry, upset, scared, relieved, happy). “

UUnderstanding the emotion:

  • “I can understand how you would feel that way. “
  • “I see what you feel. “
  • “Anyone would be (angry, sad, happy) about this situation. ”

Rrespect the emotion:

Recognize the spell

  • “It has been a difficult time for you.”
  • “Looks like you have a lot on your plate. “
  • “You’ve been through a lot. “
  • “It was hard.”

Offer praise

  • “You’ve certainly worked hard on this. “
  • “You are showing a lot of courage. “
  • “You handled it well.”
  • “You worked hard, you did your best. “

Ssupport the emotion:

  • “Let’s see what we can do.
  • “I am here to help.”
  • “You have a good group working with you, and I know they will do everything they can. “
  • “I am really impressed with the support you have from your (religion / family / friends). “

Everyone always tells us to “empathize” or “empathize”, but they rarely say how: Using NURS tells you what to say. You can remember these are empathic skills by adding an “E” to form the word “nurse”. Nurses are empathetic, the E stands for empathy.

Include NURS statements frequently throughout the evolving conversation, using only one or two at a time. For example, you might first say, “This is upsetting (appellation), I can certainly understand (agreement); “after hearing the person’s answer for about 30 seconds, you might then respond with” you had a hard time “(respect by acknowledging distress); after about 30 seconds, you might respond, “It’s good for you to talk about it” (respect by praising) or “Can I help you?” “(proof); etc. Keep sprinkling NURS comments throughout your interaction.

I would avoid continuing the conversation beyond 10 to 15 minutes; you are not expected to be a therapist; 3-5 minutes is often enough to communicate effectively in a way that moves your relationship forward by making the other person feel supported and understood.

A common concern arises about these recommendations that needs to be resolved. For example, you may have learned about someone’s terrible situation, such as divorce, job loss, or serious illness. And you fear that you opened a box of worms because there is nothing you can do to fix it. This may be true, but listening to their plight and “healing” them makes people feel better whether you have a solution or not, just like just sitting with them in silence in particularly difficult circumstances. , perhaps by touching their arm or holding their hand. Many people in difficult or even dire situations report that just listening to their story with empathy offers tremendous relief. They want to feel understood, respected and supported, nothing more. Using NURS and other person-centered skills does not make you responsible for problem solving. If it is appropriate and feasible, you may choose to explore how you could help. Then, how are you doing.


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