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Communicate to Create Change- Part I

Do you ever feel like you’ve said your piece a thousand times, only to feel like no one has heard you?

You’ve tried to create change within your organization but it always seems to fall on deaf ears. It’s almost like you’re invisible. 

Or even worse.

You’re made to feel like being overwhelmed or unsatisfied at work is your fault. If you were somehow stronger, smarter, faster, more resilient, then you wouldn’t be in this situation. 

It’s Not Your Fault

If you hear one thing today, hear this.

 It’s not your fault. 

In fact, according to Dr. Marie Brown of the AMA, 80% of burnout stems from existing environmental factors. That’s a huge percentage. A huge number of factors that have nothing  to do with journaling, meditation or how much water you drink. 

So, if that’s really the case…it begs the question 

What can we do to feel empowered as providers to begin making changes within our work environment?

I hear again and again that hands are tied by the system, by productivity standards, and by an organization, supervisor, or team that doesn’t listen. That doesn’t value your opinion or respect your ideas about how things need to be done. 

Beating your head against the proverbial wall trying to create change eventually feels fruitless, leading to apathy and disengagement. 

Communicate To Create Change

Communication is an area that’s close to my heart because it is an area that I have grown TREMENDOUSLY in over my fifteen year career. 

I have learned the hard way that there are effective, and not so effective ways, to go about having a conversation aimed at creating change. 

The truth is, we are on the front line and oftentimes we do know better than anyone else what needs to happen in order for things to run more smoothly. 

And, if you are anything like me, your passion sometimes spews out of you in a way that can come across as emotional and a bit reactive vs. the poised and polished plan that you were hoping to present.

So before I jump into the 7 strategies to more effectively get your point across, I’m going to  start with a few common pitfalls that myself, and many other providers that I have worked with, tend to fall into.

Communication Pitfalls That Should Stop Today

 #1 Being upset about all of the things

I remember many dinner time conversations with my husband (who also happens to be a  PTA) about the numerous frustrations throughout his workday. He would be upset with his boss, the PT, the CNAs, the administration, the patients, etc.

Now I loved him dearly and would have done anything to help him. But, I was never really sure exactly what it was that he was asking for. I could not have helped him even if I had wanted to.

It wasn’t clear what he was asking for help with.

I don’t know about you, but I have sat in many meetings where all the problems are thrown out on the table, but nothing ever gets done to actually address them.  

Being upset about all of the things does not help to create change. If there is no clear ask, there will be no solution.

#2  Letting things fester for too long

Back in the day, it was not uncommon for me to know  that I was upset or frustrated about something. But rather than talking it out in a rational way, I would end up spewing it all out at a staff meeting or in the middle of the nurses station. 

My tone of voice was angry, accusatory or condescending. 

Not effective.

Also not helpful, having the meeting with my boss and then CRYING.

Not because I was sad, but  just because I was so frustrated and had been holding it all back for so long. 

Anyone else a frustrated crier? I’m all for a good cry, but when you are really just trying to get your point across- Ugh, it’s the worst. 

#3 Assuming that you know what someone else is thinking

You all know what they say about assuming, right?

The assumption that you know what someone else is thinking or feeling is never an effective strategy for trying to create change. 

In fact, it can often lead to catastrophizing, or believing that things are worse than they really are.

You may think that your boss is unsatisfied with your performance or that your coworker is trying to get you fired, but do you know that for sure? 

Assuming the worst, or jumping to conclusions, is a common pitfall that is sure to doom a conversation before it has even begun.

#4 Expecting them to read your mind 

Similar to pitfall number one, this one goes back to the idea of having a clear ask.

It may be very obvious in your own head that ditching your weekend shift or changing roles within your department would be life changing. However, anticipating that your coworkers or supervisor will magically come up with the solutions that reside in your head is not a realistic expectation. 

Putting the burden of determining what you need on someone else is bound to keep you stuck and disappointed. 

#5 Giving up! 

Please do not give up. 

I’ve been there. Resigned to the fact that things are never going to change, so why bother?

We are advocates for ourselves, our professions and our patients. We have so much to give and the thought of talented, compassionate providers not being at the top of their game makes me so sad.

So please. Do not give up.

So What Can We Do? 

Here’s my advice. Let these five common communication pitfalls marinate for a minute.

Be honest with yourself. Do any (or all of them) sound familiar? Shoot me a message and let me know!

I have found that in order to begin more effectively communicating to collaboratively create change, I first had to check myself on these five things. 

Then, be sure to check out Communication to Create Change- Part II. Up on the blog next week!

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