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No. 6 – What is the Right Way to Communicate?

November 24, 2010

Health physicists often pose difficult communication scenarios for me and then ask what is the right way to respond. For example, what do you say to the woman who does not want a LLRW disposal site near her is because she does not want the glow attracting aliens from outer space? These health physicists seem disappointed when I do not immediately give a clear, simple, concise answer.

There are three reasons why I cannot give a simple answer. First of all, there is not one simple answer, but many possibilities. Second, the choices among these possibilities depend on what you wish to achieve from the communication. And lastly, effective communication is not about right and wrong ways. Instead, communication is a process that either brings you closer to or further away from your goal. Furthermore, it is not a matter of using the “right” words. As we learned in last week’s blog, the words are only a small part of effective communication. What is more important is the manner in which the words are conveyed, in terms of tone of voice, expression, body language, and sincerity.

If I attempt to give a response, it would be my response for meeting my objectives. Your goal for communication and therefore your choices of response may be entirely different from mine. To help you find a response that is appropriate for your goal, I would ask you three questions. First, “What do you wish to accomplish with this communication?” you need to have a goal or outcome in mind in terms of a response or behavior you would like from the other person. Otherwise, how will you know if your communication was successful? Second, “What responses occur to you?” I would encourage you to come up with at least five responses, and preferably 1 0 to 1 5. And third, “Which response would you choose from the possibilities and how would this response help you reach your goal for this communication?”

To improve your options for effective communication, you could also attempt to determine what the other person values. When you can answer the question, “What is in it for me and what is in it for them?” you then have a basis for real communication which meets everyone’s needs.

This approach may sound difficult or complicated, and it is. So, why would you want to bother? The answer is a function of your goal and your values. Is the communication important to you in terms of credibility, relationship, understanding, empathy, and caring? If so, then every effort you make to communicate “the right way” is worthwhile for achieving your values.

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One Comment
  1. jean staton permalink

    To Everyone

    Please have a Safe and Happy Holiday. Be Careful

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