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Bridging Differences with Agreement

There appears to be so much difference of opinion now. And perhaps uncertainty and fear heighten these differences. Individuality and ‘difference of opinion’ is not just a catchphrase when it comes to communication. It can be a challenge and it takes self-awareness and skills to overcome the problems that may occur.  

We all communicate differently. Whilst we may speak a common language and work in the same workplace, the intended messages and interpretations can be very different.  

Broadly speaking we will be either extroverted or introverted communicators.  

These natural differences are influenced by the way we think, feel, and behave. Other external influences include life experiences such as the way we were brought up, family members, friends, peers, communities, school, and work experiences.  

Employees spend an average of 75-80% of their time at work communicating with clients, co-workers, supervisors, and managers. These relationships are key and can be impacted by the quality of communication. Poorly expressed communication can harm relationships, whether intentionally or not. Poor communication is the number one reason why teams are ineffective and organisational goals are not achieved. And importantly it’s a reason why people don’t feel valued or engaged. Therefore, effective communication is a key to the success of any relationship, team, or organisation. 

So, what does this mean? 

In the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector where vulnerable people are dependent on coordinated safe and quality support services delivered by many people in various roles, it is vital that communication differences are overcome by established agreement. Therefore, the sector is guided by legislated and regulated practices and most service provider organisations will have established communication protocols and expectations. Typically, these expectations will guide communication practices to ensure continuity of support and care, accountability, and service improvement, and direct the consistent use of communication methods that promote courtesy, clarity, and conciseness as required. Some typical communication tools include: 

  • Daily shift/handover reports 
  • Progress/Activity notes  
  • Communication diary  
  • Medication administration record 

Communication skill development 

Developing self-awareness of your own communication style and then developing awareness of the communication styles of others is a skill to be learnt and then applied in the workplace context. If effective communication is a key to successful relationships, then perhaps there should be an equivalent level of relevant education and training. 

Three steps to common agreement 

  1. Self-awareness
  2. Consider others are communicating differently from you.
  3. Seek common agreement that caters for everybody in your team.
     

So where is the starting point? If you have a team relationship where you know communication is a challenge, what can you do? A good place to start is to consider how effectively you give and receive information when communicating with others. Consider the internal and external factors that may be influencing your communication. This is called self-awareness.  

Then consider the other person will be communicating differently and being influenced by other factors. This understanding is the foundation to build a common agreement.  

Ask the following questions, how do you feel our communication could be more effective? what is the best way for you to share your thoughts & ideas with me? Do you feel you have my full attention? What is the best way to communicate with each other when it is urgent and unplanned? What are some of the indicators that we are communicating better with each other?  

Author: Steve Noone, Edited by Chris Rattray

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