By Frank Ruelas
Facility Compliance Professional, St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center/Dignity Health
I am often reminded of different strategies that can be used to help open effective communication channels with others. I am going to share with you strategies that I have tried and learned through trial and error which I now try to use in many different scenarios, with some adjustments or tweaks as necessary, which as you will see…one tends to work better than the others. Perhaps this may prompt your own use of similar strategies or even help you develop effective strategies of your own.
At the hospital, which is a large, sprawling campus of buildings connected by hallways that look so similar that it is easy to lose one’s way, it is almost a given that I will run into at least a handful of people every day in what I call the “The Pose”.
Some characteristics of someone in The Pose includes the person looking one way down a hallway and then the other without taking a step or moving an inch as if doing so might result in getting hit by a train. Another characteristic is where the person is standing still, often in the middle of the walkway touching or tapping on their chin as if they are asking themselves whether they should go in one direction or another.
In either case…it is very easy to make a logical conclusion that the person needs help getting “somewhere”. So over the past year, I’ve noticed varied results when I attempt to help someone in The Pose by using the following questions.
Strategy 1: Hello, are you lost?
Sounds like a straightforward question that one might think would lead to an easy solution. WRONG! It seems that to ask someone this question causes the person to admit that they have lost their way INSIDE of a building. I should have realized this was not a good approach when I realize that many times a compliance professional that is lost in trying to answer a question is also likely not willing to admit it and may not be willing to accept assistance. Where this is especially ineffective is when there are two people who are together, one a woman and one a man, and what happens when I ask this question. Often the man will quickly say, “No, we are fine. Thank you.” I then can hear the woman say as I walk away, “Why didn’t you tell him we needed directions?” Which is then followed quickly by the man responding, “Are you kidding…I don’t need to ask for directions.”
Strategy 2: Hello, may I help you?
OK…a little better than Strategy 1 but still with some bumps in the road. By opening with such a broad question, it is not uncommon to get a list of requests…where a request for directions may be somewhere on that list. For example the person may see this as an opening and say, “Yes…I am trying to find the imaging center because I need copies of my xray for my doctor (without pausing)…I fell down last year when I was on vacation in a hotel on some water (still going!) because the hotel didn’t clean it up and floor was very slippery (great lung capacity…still going!) and when I hit the floor I thought I hurt myself because I used to be a nurse and when I was a nurse I used to work in the ED and….(you get the picture, I think!) Again, not necessarily a bad approach, but one that may not necessarily be the most effective.
Again…looking at this from a compliance perspective…how many times have people come to me with a question and rather than say, yes, no, or I don’t know…am I tempted to give a long response which in the end doesn’t answer the question, unintentionally of course. I can’t be the only one that has to monitor myself on this…or am I?
Strategy 3: Hello, may I help you get to a particular place on our campus?
Now we are talking. This approach seems to be the one that works best. The person is not categorized as being lost which may have some negative connotations associated with it as often seen with Strategy 1. This approach is also very specific when compared to Strategy 2 and focuses specifically on providing assistance to someone. I believe this approach also works best because it acknowledges that the person has a purpose or an objective (getting to his or her destination) which is certainly secondary to the challenge at hand that they may be lost.
Again…looking at it from a compliance perspective it reminds me when someone says something global such as “HIPAA is difficult” and how I can better identify how this person may be “lost” and if I can identify where this person is trying to get to…then I am more likely to provide a useful and meaningful response.
So my takeaway…deciding on what type of strategy to use to open dialogue and provide assistance can be an important skill to develop. Whether learning by trial and error, or perhaps through the efforts of others, communication strategies are definitely an area that can contribute to one’s development as well as promote more effective interactions with others.Strategies for Effective CommunicationClick To Tweet