Communication during doctors meeting in hospital

Getting Communication Unstuck

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Healthcare is constantly evolving. Pricing and delivery of services has to change when new laws are enacted. Companies in the biotech and pharma industries staff up when developing a new product or drug—but if that new product or drug doesn’t get FDA approval, there is downsizing, reorganization, and hard decisions to be made. These changes can affect organizational structure, the kinds of employees needed, and the challenges leaders must overcome.

Because people who work in healthcare experience ambiguity and change on such a regular basis, good communication is an essential tool for keeping employees engaged and productive. Unskilled communication has a negative effect on the bottom line. Skilled communication has a positive effect on the bottom line.

I have always believed that it is possible for communication to go more smoothly than most of us experience in our day-to-day lives. Over the course of my life, I have extensively studied how people communicate with each other, when it goes well, and when it does not.

Most of us have experienced the frustration of not being able to get through to another person, being misunderstood by someone, or having someone feel misunderstood by us. It happens every day in both our work and personal lives. Why does this happen so often, what are its effects on the work environment, and is there anything we can do to prevent it?

The good news is that with positive intentions, curiosity, and a healthy dose of self-awareness, you can greatly reduce the number of times you get stuck in cycles of misunderstanding and frustration. Wouldn’t it benefit your organization if patients were happier with how you communicated with them; if the marketing, sales, and product development departments were truly in sync; and if executive management knew how to communicate clearly and transparently about change?

Positive Intention

When we have a frustrating interaction with another person, it is not unusual to anticipate that future conversations will also be negative. We expect the worst and want to figure out how we can spend the least possible amount of time with that person. We might feel that the other person is completely to blame for the past instances of misunderstanding. We need to recognize that entering into any kind of interaction with this negative mindset is doomed to failure.

If, instead, we go into the conversation with positive intentions, take responsibility for our own part in past difficulties, and really try to hear and understand the other person’s point of view, it opens up the possibilities. Let go of the past and enter into the next conversation with fresh eyes and ears. If you can believe that you both have valid points of view, rather than believing from the start that the other person is wrong, the conversation will go much more smoothly.



Humans are instinctively curious. One way to improve communications between people is to enter into a conversation with intentional curiosity. We have to let go of any assumptions we might have about the other person and be willing to admit that there might be something we don’t know, such as the other person’s perspective or a pertinent fact or data point.

When we enter into a dialogue with a curious mindset, we are more likely to ask good questions that will lead us to a greater understanding of the other person’s perspective. When this happens, it is much easier to find common ground and mutual goals. This can be tricky to implement, as we often imbed our opinions into our questions. We try to take charge, asking leading questions such as “Don’t you think we should . . .” Instead, we should be asking questions about what we don’t know.

Asking questions about what we don’t know can make us feel vulnerable. That’s understandable as, in our society, we are most often rewarded for knowing the answer. However, by asking truly curious questions, we have the greatest potential for influencing another person or a situation because good questions can get people thinking differently.


When faced with a difficult interaction, a common response is to become stubborn and dig in our heels about our opinions. This is rarely a useful stance. The only way we can change our behavior is if we change the way we think about a situation. Try to be aware of your mindset and your assumptions regarding the situation or conflict. Believing that we are being wronged by someone who doesn’t agree with us is an easy trap to fall into. In most cases, it’s likely that the other person feels the same way you do!

Life is not always about being right or wrong. It’s about allowing yourself to see all possible truths in a situation; and having self-awareness will allow you to move forward with an open mind.

By using these three principles of communication, you can avoid getting stuck in the vicious cycle of frustration and conflict with others. If you find yourself in such a situation, you can also use these principles to get your communication unstuck and back on track.

For more insight and solutions, join me May 21 for the webcast, How to Get Communication Unstuck.

About the Author
Gail brings more than 25 years of expertise in interpersonal dynamics and the psychology of change to her coaching and consulting work. She helps organizations achieve measurable success in improved communication, ability to motivate and retain employees, and developing high potentials into leaders.

Gail has worked with a wide range of industries including pharma, biotech, medical devices, health insurance, medical practices, manufacturing, financial services, technology, law firms, and federal and state governments.

Gail holds a BA in psychology from the University of Connecticut and a master’s degree in counseling from the University of Bridgeport. She is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) through the International Coach Federation (ICF) and a Certified Action Learning Coach (CALC) through the World Institute for Action Learning (WIAL). Gail is a frequently sought-after speaker on the topics of interpersonal communication, conflict management, employee engagement, team development, attitude problems in the workplace, and retaining high-performing employees.
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