Tuesday, December 27, 2011

how we say what we say is as important as what we say

(excerpted from an interview with Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, author of Infants and Mothers, by Harvard Magazine): "How did you come to understand that how doctors communicate was just as important as what they communicate?

I learned very early that if you tell somebody what to do, they withdraw, set up defenses, and don’t listen. If you wait until the patient finally says to you, “What do you think?” then you have permission to answer their question and say, “What would you like to know from me?” Then they take control and tell you what they need. Waiting for this moment is the hardest thing to do in medicine, because we think it’s going to take a lot of time. The truth is, it takes less time than you’d think. I found, in my own practice, that if I spent an hour in the first two or three visits with patients, then it would never take me more than five or six minutes from then on for each visit. So in spending time at first, I’d cut down on what it took later on."

Managers, leaders, parents -- I'll assume that if you're reading this, you are asking me, "what do you think?" I am answering: listen to Dr. Brazelton! What is true for a doctor with his patient is true for a leader and his team. Build the relationship. Avoid giving advice unless asked. Take the time up front to coach.

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