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AORN Blog - The Periop Life

3 Strategies to Identify Your Communication Blind Spots

Jermaine Davis, PhD 
November 14, 2021

“We all have communication blind spots that prevent us from connecting with people,” says Jermaine Davis, PhD, a professor of Communication Studies and Organizational Leadership at Century College and St. Catherine University in Minnesota. 

These blind spots consist of verbal or non-verbal forms of communications that can have a major impact on the way colleagues work together, he adds. “Maybe you become easily agitated or annoyed when you are under pressure, or maybe you tend to be overly defensive or sensitive in workplace conversations during stressful times.”

Communication blind spots can also wreak havoc at a team level, especially when leaders try to treat everyone the same. “When you don’t acknowledge peoples’ unique differences, you make them feel like outsiders and they are far less likely to feel comfortable communicating, collaborating and cooperating when they don’t feel a part of the team.”

Clearing the Way for Courageous Conversations

In fast-paced, high-stress work environments like perioperative care, there are going to be issues that require courage to address. Davis says these courageous conversations—which he defines as honest, open and transparent high-stakes dialogues—need to happen to move things forward in the workplace or within a relationship. However, courageous conversations require strong communication skills that make people feel comfortable and safe.

Here are three strategies Davis suggests to assess your own communication skills and identify areas to improve:

  1. Conduct a personal communication SWOT analysis.

Take an honest look at your communication strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Begin with a self-assessment to ask yourself what aspects of communication you are strongest at and how people react to you, he suggests. For example, maybe you listen well, even during conflict, and pay attention to all sides.

Then ask yourself and others what your communication weaknesses, opportunities and threats are. Maybe you are a task-oriented person, and your tone becomes curt when someone is speaking to you while you are focused on completing a task.

  1. Find a communication accountability partner.

Sometimes it takes a person you trust to call out communication blind spots that you aren’t aware of, Davis acknowledges. “This person should have your best interest at heart, personally and professionally, to remind you when you fall into a bad communication habit, such as expressing a frustrated facial expression during a conflict,” he explains. “Self-awareness of communication actions is a learning process and having an accountability partner can help you increase your ability to self-monitor.”

  1. Pay attention to differences.

Davis suggests all team members can open conversation with co-workers by simply asking questions to better understand the rich qualities they bring to the workplace. “Too often leaders set a tone where the focus is on emphasizing similarity at the expense of ignoring differences,” Davis cautions.

By asking yourself, “what difference does the difference make?” you can gain new insights into the ways a co-worker expresses themself and interacts with you IF you engage that unique difference. For example, if you have a staff member who speaks multiple languages or is culturally competent when dealing and interacting with certain cultural groups then it’s wise to engage and use that unique difference in the workplace, which creates a win-win for all stakeholders, he explains. “When a person feels like their unique differences are valued, they feel safe and more willing to address conflict when it comes up, instead of sweeping it under the rug.”

Find out more about how to identify your communication blind spots from Jermaine Davis, PhD. He will be sharing additional ways to build an inclusive and respectful workplace at AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo in New Orleans, March 19–23. Registration is now open.

AORN Global Surgical Conference & Expo. March 19-23, 2022 - New Orleans, LA. Register Now