Tips from BESD: Strategies for teaching communication skills

Staff Development Weekly: Insight on Evidence-Based Practice in Education, July 23, 2010

One strategy to use when teaching communication skills is to have learners observe examples of good and bad communication and ask them to evaluate what they saw. Ask participants to walk around your organization and identify two or more examples of good communication and two examples of poor communication.

You may want to give specific locations that are appropriate, such as areas of public access (e.g., hospital lobby, elevators, cafeteria). Give participants a specific amount of time to collect examples. Remind learners to pay attention to the confidentiality of communication. For example, if a visitor is asking for directions, it is probably okay to observe the interaction. It is not okay to observe an interaction concerning treatment or other issues protected by privacy laws.

Give participants a template to follow as they observe communication. For example, when observing in-person interactions, have them answer the following questions:

  • Who is involved in the communication? Don't use names, just general identifiers such as "two nurses," "a nurse and a physician," or "a visitor and a physical therapist."
  • What did the body language indicate? For example, was personal space respected? Was eye contact (if culturally appropriate) maintained? Were both people at the same eye level? Did either of them cross their arms?
  • What was the emotional overtone of the communication? Did it seem cordial? Argumentative? Was either participant (or both) obviously uncomfortable with the interaction? If so, why or why not?
  • What tone of voice was used? For example, was the interaction conducted in a loud tone of voice, indicating anger? Did the people involved speak clearly and make an effort to be understood?

Editor's note: Subscribers to Briefings on Evidence-Based Staff Development can read the rest of this article in the July 2010 issue. Discover all the benefits of subscribing to Briefings on Evidence-Based Staff Development.

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