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Difficult Conversations

What springs to mind when we say this. You might be thinking of a difficult interaction you had with a patient or their family.

However, what we are specifically referring to is difficult conversations with your fellow health care professionals. It is something we don’t like to talk about. We shy away from it,at times to the point which , if we are not directly involved in a difficult conversation we bury our heads in paperwork and pretend that it is not happening.

The issue is that you might not be able to do this forever, one day you may discover you are faced with an uncomfortable conversation and you do not actually have the skills to deal with it. Sure, medical school runs difficult communication OSCE’s where you attempt address issues such as talking to a colleague who is always late and talking to a Radiologist about getting an urgent scan vetted. . However real life is very different.

Therefore the question is how do you react in these situations?

Think about the last time you had a difficult conversation. How did you feel, and were you completely satisfied with how you behaved?. Did you manage to get your point across, whilst maintaining professional boundaries?.

On reflection , you might realize that maybe things quickly got heated and escalated and both parties left the conversation feeling frustrated and no progress was made.

Below are a few things that we would like you to think about in these sorts of situations:

Think about your tone – when you are speaking to people over the phone, your tone can be something people pick up on and since there is no none verbal communication to save the day. It is worth paying attention to how you sound, the last thing you want to do is to appear sarcastic.

Be patient – when you are under time pressure , you might even find you are annoyed even before you have answered the phone call/ about to have a difficult conversation in person.

You have two ears to listen and one mouth to speak – Listen carefully to what the other person is trying to say. In the heat of the moment, try to see things from their point of view and if possible try to come up with solutions that will satisfy the issues you are both facing.

Timing is important – if the conversation can wait till things are less busy and people are not in high stress situations. The outcome is likely to be better.

We hope this has helped you to think through how best to have those difficult conversations with your colleagues and the things you may be able to do to make the outcome more favorable and reduce the chances of this becoming heavily heated.

From the Mr Revision Team.

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