One of the most common mistakes made while communicating with a patient is the unconscious use of certain verbal signals.
Verbal signals in communication
These signals are related to our prejudices, beliefs and stereotypes in relation to the treatment of patients and the doctor-patient relationship.
In order to improve communication with patients, you must first realise that we use these signals and then try to eliminate them.
Here are a few:
- Commanding, reprimanding
Remember, in order to effectively communicate with patients we should treat them as an equal. Try to avoid raising your voice or using a commanding or dominating tone.
- Judging a patient
Judging or commenting upon a patient's views or conduct in public is highly inappropriate.
- Giving advice
Advice such as “If I were in your place I would have done it…” is firstly, ineffective and secondly, will not help the patient to make the right decision.
- Expressing sympathy
Perhaps contrary to expectations, statements such as “I feel sorry for you, it’s a difficult situation…” do not help in establishing a lasting, trusting relationship. More than likely it will make the patient feel as though the situation is hopeless and nothing can be done.
- Ignoring a patient
Avoiding difficult situations or directly ignoring a patient’s needs and wishes may increase the difficulty of the situation and hinder communications.
- Changing the subject of the conversation
The communication of bad news is difficult for both patient and doctor. However, it is preferable to hold a difficult conversation than to change the subject or avoid it completely.