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Tips for Great Communication Part 1: Put Yourself in Someone Else’s Shoes

Last week I broke my tooth and had to go to a different dental practice than usual. As a result of my experience there, I decided to begin a series of posts about how to be a great communicator. Are you wondering why?

Well before I get to that I just want to briefly revisit a concept I have talked about in a previous post because it is a good place to begin the series: that is, each of us can only see the world as we are, not as it is. Each of us creates our own reality from the information we receive through what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we feel, even what we taste and what we tell ourselves about all of this. In other words, what we believe and what we make it all mean. And this view of the world is unique to each of us – and often we make an assumption that everyone else sees the world the same way that we do!

Our own map of the world though, may have points of similarities to others, especially family members and friends, but there will also be people whose map is completely different. Even with people we know well we can’t presume that we are making the same meaning out of something that they are, unless we check.

Tip number 1: checking for meaning is a really good way to begin understand someone else’s map of the world. Be curious and ask questions and give some information about your map of the world too. See the blog post below for more information on this concept and tips for checking for meaning.
http://healthleadershipcoaching.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/5-tips-for-how-to-clarify-for-meaning-and-seek-to-understand-part-1/

Back to the dentist. As I sat there receiving emergency root canal therapy for a verrry long time the dentist said to the nurse – ‘there’s an awful lot of blood here’. Now initially I made that mean that my tooth was gushing, I was never going to have the hole in my tooth closed and an ambulance was on its way with emergency blood transfusion. However, as an alternative to panicking, I decided to put myself in her position and luckily (or not!) I have had a lot of root canal therapy in the past so I know that the presence of blood indicates infection. I decided that all she meant was the infection was quite bad and I would need antibiotics – felt MUCH calmer.

Now it may have been quite hard for the Dentist to find out my map around dental treatment Dentists are time poor and not a lot of chatting goes on there. So how could she have improved her communication and as a result, my experience?

Tip number 2: Putting yourself in the position of someone else and thinking the way they might think is a really good way to get a sense of what someone’s map of the world might be in a specific situation. If the Dentist had literally sat in that chair and thought about the language she uses and how that might be perceived by her patients I have no doubt it would improve her communication and her patient’s experience.

How can you use these two strategies to improve your communication?

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