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Given the high-pressure environments that doctors work in, challenges in communication can arise. These can affect your professional relationships. Simply put, if what you communicate is misunderstood, misinterpreted or undermined, there can be devastating consequences for you and potentially patients. Ignoring the situation makes things worse – your confidence fails, and you become more stressed and unhappy.

Throughout your career, you’ll work with so many people with different personalities, styles and cultural backgrounds. It won’t always be easy, but ultimately, how you handle the various situations using communication strategies will make you a better leader.

It helps to understand the different communication styles of the people you work with:

In this article, we review the impact of negative peer-to-peer communications on your confidence in a clinical environment and strategies you can employ to manage those uncomfortable situations.

When communication affects your confidence

There will be times when your work environment isn’t healthy because communication (comments from your peers) can make you feel like you are underperforming, or it is being used to harass or bully you or someone you know.

Picture these scenarios:

Adapting to a new workplace or team

Challenges: Trying to fit in isn’t easy, depending on the team dynamics. You may be hesitant to ask for help, find it stressful starting from scratch to gain professional respect from your new peers, and lack the confidence to ‘fit in’; colleagues question your authority.

Strategies: Be open to feedback; get involved in team social interactions to build rapport; be proactive in team discussions; focus on being friendly and not defensive; respond confidently, avoiding power struggles.

English as a second language

Challenges: Potential misunderstandings and misinterpretation of what you say can lead to frustration due to language barriers and stop you from quickly finding the right words in high-pressure and time-poor situations. This, in turn, affects your confidence in clinical judgement and decision-making.

Strategies: Attend inclusive communication workshops; prepare varying responses for different situations where your decisions have been questioned or undermined; ask your peers for understanding while you continue learning the nuances of English and ask them to help you practise.

Cultural directness

Challenges: Australia is a culturally diverse country, yet there are still some cultural differences in communication styles that are often misunderstood. The way you talk can be misconstrued as aggressive or rude, even confrontational, rather than simply direct. Peers may raise complaints or question your authority, impacting your confidence.

Strategies: Seek out cultural sensitivity training; have open and honest discussions with your peers about how your directness may be misunderstood; buddy up with a colleague who can coach you on local customs and communication styles; seek support from mentors or supervisors.

Conclusion

While we could write a lot more on this subject, I’ve seen clients experience communication issues in these are three main scenarios.

Don’t give up. Every relationship is a learning experience and helps us grow as leaders. You probably won’t handle these situations well initially, but practise makes perfect. You will improve and be able to lead by example. As an added bonus, your experiences will enable you to answer interview questions about these situations. Recruiters want to know you can confidently handle difficult interactions.

Focus on your strengths. When someone questions your decision, acknowledge their point of view, but be prepared to stand by it. You can be assertive when it’s called for in your job. Trust your clinical judgement, even when your peers don’t.

If you’re experiencing a communication challenge and would like support and coaching to manage the situation better, book in a free consultation to find out how I can help.

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