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Communication Spoken and Written C ommunication is a process that involves a sender, a receiver, a message and a medium. Sometimes we don’t communicate because we put up barriers. For example, lack of time, noise, interruptions, emotional, social and status values or simply confusing language. In this article we’ll look specifically at communication one-to-one; by phone; when making presentations; when writing a report and when formulating email messages.www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
One-to-OneBody language VisitExperts argue over the exact split but When you get mail at home, a handwrittencommunication components are thought letter stands out from the junk you receive.to comprise: The equivalent in a work context is visiting someone – not a brief meeting but a proper7% Verbal (the words you use) visit where you understand how and38% Vocal (the way you use the words – where the other person works. You then tone, volume, pitch and emphasis) have more background and reduce the55% Visual (the body language that need for superficial communication. goes with it) A shared mental picture and emotionalWhen the words and music don’t match, it understanding is worth a thousandcreates unease. When the song and dance emails.don’t match, the message is in big trouble.It’s not what you say, it’s how you say itDisinterest is infectious. Be upbeat. Use Listen -analogy, metaphor and positive languageand don’t be afraid to let your emotional and learncommitment show.Rapport SummariseEstablishing rapport and getting someone Summarising what another person has saidto identify you as someone they can trust, is a critical skill in successful communication.is key to successful communication It makes the other person feel you’ve taken all they’ve said on board and helps you gain• start with small talk agreement and commitment.• use the other person’s name• find something for you both to smile Handling questions about Some questions are really concerns.• empathise with them Acknowlege them, clarify, answer and check• mirror their own body language you’ve answered satisfactorily to prove you (if you’re getting along well, you’ll be value the relationship. If you don’t know the surprised that this has already happened!) answer, say so. Offer to find out and make• maintain gentle eye contact absolutely sure you do so and promptly.• match their language by using the same Listen or similar words and phrases. When you’re talking, you’re not listening.• enter their reality - try to see things from How many people do you know who drone their point of view so you can lead them on about being a good listener when all the to your desired outcome . time you’re wishing that just for once they would stop talking and listen to what you have to say? Listen - and learn.www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
PhoneIt’s good to talkWe all use the phone as the main means ofcommunication in business whether by Talking withland-line or mobile. In general, people likeit when you take time to call. A five minutephone call can often do the work of several people isemails because you can hear someone’stone of voice and gauge reaction. the bestBrits are famous for not saying what theymean and dressing up messages in layers form ofof irony, humour or understatement.Speaking with people directly ensures you communicationhear what they mean as well as what theysay.Plan to talk Let them know you’re still thereJust because the phone is an informal Speaking on the phone is different to face-tomedium you can still plan an agenda of the -face communication. You can’t check if thepoints you need to cover and decide what other person is paying attention. It’s irritatinginformation you need from the other person. to hear the other person type while speaking.This is essential if the person at the other end If replying to an email, they are not listeningof the line has a reputation for being ‘chatty’ to you. You might be making a crucial pointand monopolising air-time. It’s important if while they are signaling to a colleague theyyou too, are a bit of a ‘gas-bag’, as you might want a ‘10 strong’ from the vending machine.get carried away and forget key points. Talk in short bursts and use open questionsCall where you won’t be interrupted by people that check for understanding. Similarly, ifor signal drop-out on a mobile. you’re listening, play your part by letting the other person know you are there and not cutThink about background noise as the other off from lack of signal or interest!person might not be able to hear youspeaking if there is a tannoy blasting outflight arrivals. It’s also a bit deflating to start Record itoff with “I don’t have much time as I’m about When you’ve had an important call, committo go into a meeting” Dedicate time to the . to paper what’s been said and agreed. Thiscall for both your and the other person’s sake. helps you remember what was said and reminds the other person if they deny it afterwards!www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
Be politeIf your mobile rings during a land-line call,forward it into voicemail. Taking the call isequivalent to looking over someone’sshoulder while they are talking with youand ignoring what they are saying.An ex-colleague of mine had a habit ofputting you on hold while taking a secondcall, leaving you holding for ages. If someonedoes this to you, suggest they call you back.Your time is important too, so why hold untilthe other person is ready to speak? But ifchatting to a friend when a business callcomes through, remember, business comesfirst.Summarise what you’ve agreed at the end ofthe call. It will only take seconds and allowany misunderstanding to be ironed out thereand then. You can email or prepare a quick filenote to confirm the call. Slides shouldFor those working on clinical trials, GCP encouragerequires you to have an audit trail. So,conversations with Investigators regardingprotocol changes or adverse events will need an audienceto be recorded. You may have an internal SOPthat provides a form for you to fill in recording to see whatthe salient points of a conversation. you’re sayingIf in doubtTalking with people is the best form ofcommunication and the phone is often thequickest medium to use. It’s easy to make aquick call to check something out and evenwhen you have nothing much to say, it’samazing how often people are glad you’vecalled because they have something to sayto you. www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
Presentations Dos • breathe! • speak clearly and be natural • pitch the presentation towards the back of the room • pause at key points for emphasis • look at your audience • keep an eye on the audience’s body language • know when to stop and or edit any section of the presentation that’s sending them to sleep • be prepared for questionsThe prospect of a presentation can havea soporific effect on an audience. The Dontsdelivery can sometimes send them • shout or mumble.completely to sleep! • rush or talk deliberately slowly • you’re not on stage at the Comedy Store - avoid too many jokesStructure • indulge in too much hand waving1. Tell the audience what you’re presenting. • talk to the display screen2. Present it. • read the slides verbatum3. At the end, tell them what you’ve presented. • start sentences with “ermm” • jiggle loose change in your pocket!Who is doing the talking? • move about too much. Some physicalYou are – not the slides. No amount of animation is desirable but pacing up andinformation on your slides will communicate down can unnerve an audienceyour message for you. It’s vital you knowwhat your message is and can verbalise itwithout relying on reading out what otherscan read for themselves on the screen.Less is always more. Use your own personalskills to engage your audience. www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
Help them to seeSlides should encourage an audience tosee what you’re saying. They offer a visualcomponent to your message that can bein the form of pictures, graphics, graphsetc. Why do some people only use wordson their slides?HandoutsIf you have a lot of information for youraudience to read, send it in advance of thepresentation or provide it as a handout.It’s a cardinal sin and indeed a form ofmiscommunication to embed a wordydocument into a slide. An audience willnever read a long piece of text on screen.Does the audience need an eye test?Going one worse, is to import aspreadsheet into a presentation. Most ofyour audience will not be able to seeanything on the slide and any who doare unlikely to be able to make neitherhead nor tail of it. Once again, provide aprint out of the details if important.Otherwise, summarise salient points.Use bulletsNot everyone likes them but bulletpoints on a slide can prompt you as aspeaker to communicate your keymessages to your audience. Five bulletsare about the maximum on any one slideor the font size has to decrease andyou’re back to the audience switchingoff because they can’t read the words.If you need more than five, use a furtherslide or simply try to be more concise.Animated slidesIn small doses if at all please! www.onlymedics co uk
Writing a ReportClarityYou don’t need to be a literary genius or, if you • Supportare, keep reminding others in your written Why is your proposal the right one?communication. Why use several List the supporting points, costs,words when one will do? benefits and risks. Write in headlines, like a newspaper or use bullet points.Here are some examples - Keep supporting facts and figures• ‘in view of the fact that’ (because) separate in an annex. If people want• ‘an approximation as to how much’ (estimate) them, they can find them but don’t• ‘serious crisis’ (crisis) confuse the main message.• ‘entirely complete’ (complete)• ‘consequently’ or ‘accordingly’ (so) Play devil’s advocate (you can bet your last dollar someone else will!) andWatch out for confusibles like include contrary points and deal with• ‘affect/effect’ or advice/advise them.Brevity • ActionWhen writing, less is more - especially when This is where you ask the reader to dowriting a report. An executive summary is all something based on your proposal.most people want to read. A good one-pagercan say enough to make an informed decision Conclude by repeating your mainor take action. Try to get the main message message and suggest actions, such asinto the headline and cover four key areas - who does what and when. • Background Set the context, why you’re writing the report and briefly what you want to achieve. Read and • Proposal This is your answer to the problem set out in the Background. Deliver the message in re-read what the clearest way in the fewest words. Don’t use the passive approach. Take you’ve written responsibility and say ‘I recommend.’ A good way of structuring your thoughts is - before you opinion + fact + reason + example. e.g. ‘I believe we should eat more fruit. send it Fruit is vital to a balanced diet. It’s full of vitamins and minerals. A single orange gives all the vitamin C a healthy adult requires in one day.’ www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk
EmailPopularityFewer letters are written in business today If you want to interact with others in the realbecause the main focus is email. It’s like world, turn your PC off, get your jacket onworking in our own personal post room as and get out there.communications arrive directly to the Coveragedesktop. Yet despite being the most popular Many people send emails to cover their backs,form of communication, email continues to copying others in to make sure every possiblecause headaches for may and is the single person who had any conceivable reason to begreatest source of embarrasing faux pas. interested is informed. You are empowered to use some authority without getting others’Ignore them and they’ll go away permission and if you make a big mistake, aNot so. Some people believe if you let email covering email isn’t going to help.sink to the bottom of the pile unanswered.them they will eventually become irrelevant. Rules There are certain rules with emails thatTruth is, if you don’t reply, the person who save a lot of bother. Try to reply as soonsent the email to you will sooner or later as you read an email, otherwise you’llcontact you again, either by email or phone, need to read it again at the time you dofor a response. Don’t be labeled as decide to reply. The exception is ifunresponsive - it can come back and bite you’re angry or tired. You may regretyou when you need information from it later. Always read and re-read whatthem. By not replying you’re only you’ve written before you send it. If inincreasing your workload. doubt, delete. We all keep too much correspondence that clogs up ourReceipts corporate servers. Do remember though,Annoying, aren’t they? Why do people ask for that for GCP audit trails, some emails maya receipt that their email has been read? It tells need to be printed out and filed.them nothing other than that you’ve openedtheir note. The only receipt that matters is Forward/replywhether you’ve managed to change the way Never confuse forward and reply buttonssomeone thinks, feels or acts. – you can keep sending long email messages onwards for ever if you do. Only use copy toDon’t ask for receipts and don’t send them. If all where every person really does need toit matters so much that someone gets know.something, give them a call to check. Finally, never forward anything that youGet out more wouldn’t pin up on your wall for everyoneSitting at your PC is a lonely business. Email to see.is a way of pretending you’re in a socialenvironment. You can flirt or gossip on line You never know where it may end up.while pretending to work. Some peoplegenerate email to get more in return. www.clinicalprofessionals.co.uk